12/21/04 — Bio-diesel: An old idea is revived

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Bio-diesel: An old idea is revived

When Rudolph Diesel of Germany designed his engine, he thought it might be something that farmers could fuel for themselves. The idea was to extract fuel from vegetables that the farmers raised. The fuel would then power the farmers’ equipment.

The engine would replace the less efficient steam engines that were popular at that time — just before the turn of the 20th century.

Petroleum was cheap and plentiful then, and the idea of home-grown fuel for engines got sidetracked.

Petroleum is no longer cheap and plentiful.

Furthermore, the fuel for the engines of the Rudolph Diesel type — commonly called diesels with a lower-case d — does not burn clean, and it emits an unpleasant odor. Rudolph Diesel’s old notion of a vegetable-based fuel is quickly coming back into fashion.

This brings us to Mount Olive and its new bio-diesel plant, which was announced Friday by a firm called Atlantic Bio-Energy, the North Carolina Grain Growers Cooperative and the Wayne County Economic Development Commission. With petroleum prices rising, with soybeans plentiful as a source of oil, and with growing concern about emissions from petroleum-powered engines, the outlook for such an operation would seem promising.

Using soybeans from eastern North Carolina farms, the plant could add 20 million or so gallons a year to the bio-diesel fuel that’s out there. That can be blended with petroleum-based diesel fuel to run any diesel-powered vehicle, making a cleaner-burning mixture. Some diesels can use the bio-diesel product unmixed.

The fuel will be made by separating components of soybean oil. A byproduct will be glycerin, which can be used in the manufacture of soap and other products.

The plant’s staff will number about 25 at first, with another 20 to be added with a planned expansion. It will add about $45 million to the county’s tax base.

The owners searched throughout eastern North Carolina for a site. We are indebted to them for choosing Wayne County, and we are indebted to county officials and the Mount Olive Committee of 100 who made their choice of Wayne an attractive one.

Published in Editorials on December 21, 2004 11:03 AM