Vegetable Oil Fuel Can Power Your Diesel

Vegetable oil fuel is the topic of Michael Brown’s report on still another renewable fuel possibility.

| September/October 1979

  • Soybean Oil Engine
    The author, Michael Brown, gets ready to fire up a diesel engine after pouring in a gallon of vegetable oil fuel.

  • Soybean Oil Engine

The events of this past summer have provided just about everyone with abundant proof that the days of inexpensive and readily available fossil fuels are gone for good.

However, North America is — like it or not — a continent that runs on wheels ... and our dependence upon transportation (and therefore upon the internal combustion engine) requires that we come up with alternative liquid fuels.

As most MOTHER readers know by now, alcohol is one possible answer to the gasoline crisis. There are other alternatives, too, some of which might not make economic sense — at least in terms of fulltime use — yet, but that could come in handy in an emergency ... or even become economically practical as fossil fuel prices continue to rise. One such ''unlikely" fuel — which is capable of powering any diesel-engined tractor, truck or auto — is vegetable oil!

Now, the notion of running an engine on "essence of soybean" isn't near as crazy as it might sound. You see, when Rudolf Diesel designed his first engine around 1890, he planned on fueling the powerplant with coal dust ... a material that was abundant in Germany at that time. It was years later that the engines were first run on petroleum products.

Then, in the twentieth century, the Chinese were hit by terribly inflated petroleum prices ... and they solved the problem, in part, by running their diesel engines on vegetable oil.

It seems that prior to World War II diesel fuel cost about twice as much as did vegetable oil in China, and the petroleum product's price doubled and trebled following the war. So, under those circumstances, the vegetable-based fuel made good economic sense. (For all I know, the folks in China may still be running their tractors on tung oil.)

2/18/2010 6:38:17 PM

I did'nt know that it was'nt common knowledge that for years many persons who work agriculture and in the woods do exactly what you did in the shop,though many press their own vegetable oil from whatever's being grown.BTW you can use it in an oil burner in your house too!

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