NBB sustainability director weighs in on water

By | April 26, 2010
March 22 is World Water Day, which was designed to focus on water's role in healthy ecosystems and human well-being. But when misinformation about biodiesel leaked into the mix, the NBB was quick to set the record straight.

All too often biodiesel's water use is exaggerated or misstated. In a statement distributed nationally to media members and biodiesel stakeholders, Don Scott, NBB director of sustainability, had this to say about water and biodiesel:
"Even the most pristine sources of water require energy to move it by pumping or shipping it in containers, such as plastic bottles. With a planet covered in water, and the realization that it takes energy to provide clean water in a useful form, we quickly see that wise use of water and wise use of energy are linked.

"That's where biodiesel comes in. By switching to renewable fuels such as biodiesel, we help ensure future access to energy and future access to clean, fresh water. For every unit of energy put into producing biodiesel, 4.5 units of renewable solar energy are stored in the usable form of liquid fuel. Biodiesel is the best way to store energy from the sun in a dense, liquid fuel for transportation uses, but it can also be used as a renewable fuel for stationary uses such as the Thames Water Desalination Plant in London. This plant will use biodiesel from recycled fat and oil from London restaurants and households to provide water for one million people.

"We must also protect our water resources by minimizing pollution. Biodiesel production reduces wastewater by 78 percent and reduces hazardous waste production by 96 percent compared to producing petroleum diesel. These numbers are based on the entire life cycle of the fuel. The conversion of fats and oil to biodiesel uses very little water and can be done consuming no water at all, if necessary. 2008 was a record year for biodiesel production in the U.S. Even during that record production, the entire U.S. industry used less water than a handful of golf courses use to water their lawns. In the context of societal uses of water and the benefit it brings, biodiesel production represents a very meager use of water."

Scott's expertise runs deeper than biodiesel alone. His previous experiences in protecting water resources include eleven years as an environmental engineer for the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, and chief of surface water for the Missouri Water Resources Center. 
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