The nation doesn't just run on Dunkin anymore. Sizzling grease from fast food may soon fuel the nation's military vehicles.
According to the American Forces Press Services, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has plans for using alternative fuels, like biodiesel, to run aircrafts, ships and ground vehicles.
Some military bases like Camp Pendleton in San Diego are using a mixture of petroleum and biodiesel fuel. The mixture fuels tanks, buses, and yes, even a locomotive, according to Wired.com.
These vehicles aren't being sent into battle zones, but the use of biodiesel on military bases in the United States is increasing rapidly. Camp Pendleton has already used more than one million gallons.
Other military bases have jumped on the biodiesel bandwagon as well. According to Wired.com, the naval base in Everett, Washington, and Peterson Air force base near Colorado Springs have been using this fuel since 2001.
The military isn't the only one weaning their way off foreign oil. Other government agencies like the Department of Agriculture and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) are taking an interest in biodiesel. Even local governments are using it to run school buses and other transportation services. Meanwhile, commercial airlines are beginning to run test flights fueled by a mix of biodiesel and oil. This holds much promise for use by military aircrafts.
So at this point, you may be asking: what exactly is biodiesel?
Biodiesel isn't your standard vegetable oil. According to biodiesel.org, it's made from a process called transeterification, where glycerins in the oils are taken out of the fat.
Seattlepi.com spells out the definition well.
"Biodiesel is vegetable oil or animal fats mixed with methanol (or, in some cases, ethanol) and lye, which create the fuel through a chemical process called transeterification - similar to soap making. It's byproduct is glycerine, used in soaps. Most biodiesel today is made from soybean oil, but many consider the ideal source to be oilseed crops - canola, mustard, rapeseed - which are all high in oil content. Biodiesel can be used interchangeably in most diesel engines, in any blend."
So all of that delicious Sunday brunch bacon grease can't fuel a person's car until it's processed properly.
The Environmental Protection Agency has made biodiesel a legal fuel for sale to the public, but it's also the only alternative fuel to have fully completed the health effects testing requirements of the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments. Unlike regular petroleum oil, it's non-toxic, biodegradable, and it's better for the environment because of its lower greenhouse emissions. Ultimately it may help reduce global warming and air pollution.
DARPA says a pure 100 percent biodiesel concoction will not work with military engines existing now, but in the next few years, 100 percent biodiesel may be feasible.
So next time you head for that greasy value meal from a fast food restaurant, you can justify the purchase as fueling your future vehicles, instead of just your potbelly.
BY Alicia Tarancon
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