Biofuel has been around for long than any of us have been alive. Indeed, the first diesel cars were designed to run on peanut oil in the 1880s!
Rupert Diesel could even be considered one of the fathers of environmental awareness since he wanted to prove that automobiles didn't have to depend on fossil fuels, so those diesel engines ran on peanut oil for the next 40 years.
Even Henry Ford mass-produced biofuel cars, beginning with the 1908 Model T Ford, and owned his own ethanol plant. 25% of the fuel sold by Standard Oil was biofuel. Eventually hemp became one of the main resources used for biofuels production since it produced so much more fuel than did peanut oil.
Unfortunately, the growing oil industry decided that petroleum based products were ‘better’. . . even though they weren't. . . and, through aggressive marketing, convinced people that oil and gas were better and cheaper.
When they began demonizing hemp as “the evils of marijuana" - even though the hemp used in biofuels production wouldn't get anyone high - it was the beginning of the end. Up until that point, hemp usage had been legal in the United States. After the oil companies got through with their intense marketing, the biodiesel industry collapsed in the 1930s.
After World War II, petroleum companies also started buying up trolley car lines, which ran on electricity, and replacing them with buses running on diesel, and pushed for new highways. The boom following World War II led to an explosion of car purchases - all running on petroleum-based products, not biofuels.
What the oil companies didn't recognize then was that non-renewal energy sources are finite. That we would run out of oil. That we would become dependent on foreign old resources only 40 years later. . . and not be able to control foreign oil forever. After all, what are a few decades when they were getting rich then?
Now the auto industry is coming around full circle as public demand for more environmentally friendly cars that use renewable energy sources. Jeep Grand Cherokees and Dodge RAM trucks are among the 2008 vehicles that are designed to run on biofuels. Flex-fuel and hybrid cars also are being sold in greater numbers, and all US cars sold since 2000 can run n a combination of gas and biofuels.
Of course, the petroleum industry still fights back, coming up with reports claiming that petroleum is better for car engines than biofuels, an approach that is disputed by many other studies. But by 1985, all cars in Brazil could run on biofuels. Many other countries have been turning to biofuels over the past 20 years and, unlike in the United States, biofuels are available at most service stations across Europe.
There are currently several hundred major fleets of biofuels vehicles - cars, buses, and vans - in the United States, including fleets used by the military, the US Postal Service, and many transit systems.
So, while the petroleum industry fights to keep their control over the fuel industry, it looks like the history of biofuels cars, while shunted aside for a while, is still be written.
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