Energy Independence is an everlasting goal for the U.S. (just ask President Nixon, who popularized the term with his Project Independence in 1973), yet in 2019, we imported 9.1 million barrels of foreign fuel a day, sourced from 90 different countries. That’s a lot of oil and a lot of international interests to keep track of. However, true energy independence is not just more pertinent than ever, it’s more possible.
“People don’t often think about how important it is to invest in local, homegrown fuels when it comes to energy independence,” said Jennifer Case, CEO of New Leaf Biofuel. “Biodiesel is grown here in the United States and consumed here in the United States.”
Biodiesel is traditionally made from vegetable oils — “every year, there’s a crop planted into the ground. The crops grow. The food (soybean meal) goes one way and the oils go another way. As we’ve become more efficient farmers, we’ve produced more and more food per acre than ever before, which results in a glut of vegetable oil,” explained Case.
In California though, biodiesel is made mostly from second-use sources such as restaurant oil and animal fats. New Leaf collects used cooking oil from restaurants all over Southern California — yes, the same kind that is used to crisp up those french fries that go perfectly with your 4th of July burger. These gallons of post-frialator oil are then converted to biodiesel with a process called transesterification.
Biodiesel can then be used in place of petroleum diesel in blends ranging from B5 (5% biodiesel/95% petroleum diesel) all the way to B100 in some applications. This plant-based replacement produces up to 80% less carbon emissions than petroleum diesel, so its presence represents not just a win for US industry and agriculture, but for the domestic environment and air quality as well. It also holds a key opportunity for America to ease off of foreign fuel dependence and close the loop of sustainability stateside.
The cycle of biodiesel — from American crops to American cars — signals that energy independence may soon be not just a promise, but a practical reality. “We have our own energy here for electricity. Why shouldn’t we have our own energy for fuel?” asked Case. Ultimately, “Biodiesel, ethanol and renewable diesel, these biofuels … they really contribute to energy independence because we’re growing it here and it’s staying here.”
So as you’re gassing up the car, take a moment to think about it — what’s really more patriotic than running on pure American energy?