Clean Diesels and Biodiesel Feedstock Developments

By Ron Kotrba | April 26, 2010
People often ask what is meant by clean diesel-is it a trademark for a particular technology, or does it mean biodiesel-powered vehicles? I don't mind answering that question from those who seem to only associate diesel fuel and compression-ignition power with heavy equipment, who are not aware of the significant progress made in all diesel market segments: light-, medium- and heavy-duty. The only dumb question is the one not asked, right?

Clean diesel technology is an array of advancements made over the past two decades that has brought diesels-once dirty, noisy workhorses-to the forefront of the clean car revolution. Many people chastise government for heavy-handed regulation, but were it not for international governmental efforts in Europe, the United States and elsewhere, the phenomenal advancements in diesel powertrains may not have even come into existence. Clean diesel technology refers to a progression of optimizations to diesel fuel injection systems, combustion cycles, sophisticated onboard diagnostics and a number of advanced emissions controls. It means more efficient, less polluting and quieter applications in trucks and passenger vehicles, and increased performance. Clean diesels do not have to be run on biodiesel blends to be considered "clean," although doing so will certainly add to its overall greenness-not to mention it would help support the struggling biodiesel industry.

On April 1, the U.S. EPA and the transportation department jointly announced the final rule to the corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) program spearheaded by President Barrack Obama, to take effect between 2012 and 2016. The changes will increase the average fuel economy of new vehicles to around 35 miles per gallon, and is hailed as being the first U.S. regulation of greenhouse gases. Clean diesels are ready to meet tomorrow's challenge today, and many believe this rule will provide the catalyst for the dieselization of America, so to speak. Read more about this on page 9 of the Industry News section. On that note, Mazda announced it is bringing a mid-sized diesel car to the U.S. market in 2012, about which you can read more in the BIObytes section of this issue.

Since this issue's focus is next-generation biodiesel feedstock developments-not clean diesels-we also bring to you a suite of stories on this very important topic. Over the past couple of years, algae and jatropha have been seen as highly promising feedstocks. In the feature article on page 20, "Engineering the Perfect Algae Strain," we take an in-depth dive into the genetic science underway at Iowa State University. Professor Martin Spalding's team is investigating the stacking of traits in one particular strain of algae, helping commoditize the microorganism to produce an unlimited amount of biodiesel feedstock. On page 10 of the Industry News section, we cover some recent investments in jatropha developments in the Eastern and Western hemispheres. And in this month's Talking Point column on page 38, Sreenivas Ghatty, CEO of Tree Oils India Ltd., gets the last word on jatropha in "Jatropha: A Failed Success?"
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