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A Few Biofuel Myths Busted

E10Tons of research is being done in the area of producing biofuels, even if you might not know this when you go to fill up your vehicle.  Heck, there’s whole scientific journals – several of them, in fact – dedicated to researching biofuels.  A lot of them cover obscure and hard to understand topics, like research to find particular bacteria that are capable of breaking down wood mass so it can be turned into ethanol, but someone’s got to do all the fiddly research if we want something sustainable to put into our cars.

Nevertheless, there are still quite a lot of misconceptions out there to do with biofuels.  Biofuels Association Australia, among other people, are doing their bit to educate the public and expose these myths for what they are.  Some of these things might have been true in the past but all that research has changed things – but general thinking doesn’t seem to have caught up.

Here’s a handful of these myths that we need to say goodbye to. How many are you guilty of believing?

Myth #1: E10 and similar biofuel blends won’t work in my car.

The truth: If your vehicle was made after 1986 and can run on regular unleaded petrol (91RON), it can run on an E10 blend (that’s 10% ethanol mixed with the petrol) without any hassles.  Higher proportions of ethanol and cars that need 95RON or 98RON may be another story and you’ll need to talk to the manufacturers or the petrol companies about whether this will be OK.  If you’re not sure about your car and whether it can run on E10, check it out on the E10 OK website https://e10ok.initiatives.qld.gov.au/. (If you’ve got a diesel engine, we can tell you right away that no, you can’t use E10. E10 is petrol.  Look into biodiesel instead.)

Myth #2: You have to convert your car before you can use biofuels.

The truth: Once again, if your car was made after 1986 and can run on regular 91RON unleaded, it can take E10 without any hassles.  The same goes for your lawnmower, your truck, your motorbike, your boat – anything with an engine.

Myth #3: Biofuels aren’t all that hot for sustainability because they compete with food crops for water, land and fertiliser.

The truth: This can be the case with biodiesel that’s sourced from corn oil. However, the big push these days is to make the most of waste products from the food industry, such as leftover pulp and residues from Australia’s famous sugar industry, wood chips from papermaking, brewery residues, etc., etc.  In the biodiesel department, they know that the competing resources issue is a problem, so they’re doing things like researching crops that produce food and biofuel feedstock at the same time, biofuel crops that grow on land that’s no good for food or that can cope with less water, and algae that grow happily in your local sewage pond.

Myth #4: Biofuels cause deforestation.

The truth: For a start off, this certainly isn’t the case here Down Under, as the waste from the sugar industry keeps up a good supply of ethanol.  As a matter of fact, this is also the case in Brazil, which also has a big sugar industry – no, they’re not cutting down vast tracts of the Amazon to grow biofuel stocks.  To be fair, they may have cut a bit down a long time ago, but most of Brazil’s sugar industry is located a long way from the Amazon.  It’s kind of like saying that Queensland’s sugar industry is causing deforestation in Kakadu National Park in Northern Territory – Brazil has about a million square kilometres than Australia, don’t forget.

OK, if you want to get really technical, some of the industries that produce the waste that gets used to make ethanol may have cut down bits of forest that they shouldn’t. However, it’s not the biofuel that’s to blame here but the original industry.

Myth #5: My vehicle won’t have as much power if I use an ethanol blend in it.

The truth: Actually, ethanol has a higher octane rating than petrol, according to Biofuels Association Australia, so you may end up getting more power instead of less with a biofuel blend.

Myth #6: Biodiesel is hard on fuel lines and gaskets.

The truth: this will depend on how old your car is and what your fuel lines are made of. If your vehicle is on the older side and/or you’ve got rubber gaskets and fuel lines, biodiesel will attack the rubber, as it’s a stronger solvent than fossil fuel-sourced diesel.  Have a wee chat with your mechanic to see what the innards of your vehicle are made of – if they’re not rubber, you should be all good.

To find out more about biofuels in Australia at the moment and find out the latest, have a browse around the Biofuels Association Australia website (http://biofuelsassociation.com.au/).

 

 

 

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