Biodiesel is still surprising a lot of people. You can tell they’re surprised because they use exclamation marks. “Diesel runs on vegetable oil!” or “Man drives truck powered by cooking oil!” Yesterday I saw another article, “You can run biodiesel engines on filtered coconut oil!” over on BoingBoing and it struck me that a lot of confusion exists out there about diesel engines. I suppose the reason is most drivers and riders have always used gasoline engines and looked at diesels as big, loud engines found in 18 wheelers.
The engine is not, as the link states a “biodiesel engine,” it’s just a diesel engine, which is the compression ignition engine invented by Rudolf Diesel. Rudy’s first engine on display at the 1900 World’s Fair was running on peanut oil so it was a biodiesel engine right off the bat. But biodiesel then, as now, had a cost disadvantage to petroleum fuel and over the years, people seemed to forget that diesel fuel had its roots in, well, roots! Stuff that grows. Biodiesel isn’t some brand new fuel a bunch of smart techies invented, unless you consider that Rudolf Diesel was a pretty smart techie himself, he just happened to discover all of this over 100 years ago.
So now if you read the shocking story of how a “Diesel engine runs on peanut oil!” you’ll know it’s nothing new. Give the exclamation marks a rest!