I sit down near the tracks near everyday, and though the emissions spewed from the top of the engines is not nearly so noxious as the old coal-burning trains, the pollution from diesel and gasoline engines are still amongst the largest sources of air pollution in the United States and worldwide. So I feel I must share a thought, a simple dream for a better world . . .
Imagine if the trains ran on algae-based biodiesel, and used vegetable-based hydraulic fluid and lubricants instead of toxic petroleum-based products . . .
AVERAGE BIODIESEL EMISSIONS COMPARED TO CONVENTIONAL DIESEL, ACCORDING TO EPA
Emission Type B100 (100% biodiesel) B20 (20% biodiesel blend)
Total Unburned Hydrocarbons -67% -20% Carbon Monoxide -48% -12% Particulate Matter -47% -12% Nox +10% +2% to -2%
Non-Regulated Emissions Sulfates -100% -20%*
PAH (Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons)** -80% -13%
nPAH (nitrated PAH’s)** -90% -50%***
Ozone potential of speciated HC -50% -10%
* Estimated from B100 result
** Average reduction across all compounds measured
*** 2-nitroflourine results were within test method variability (more)
The ozone (smog) forming potential of biodiesel hydrocarbons is less than diesel fuel. The ozone forming potential of the speciated hydrocarbon emissions is 50 percent less than that measured for diesel fuel.
Sulfur emissions are essentially eliminated with pure biodiesel. The exhaust emissions of sulfur oxides and sulfates (major components of acid rain) from biodiesel are essentially eliminated compared to diesel.
Criteria pollutants are reduced with biodiesel use. Tests show the use of biodiesel in diesel engines results in substantial reductions of unburned hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, and particulate matter.
Emissions of nitrogen oxides stay the same or are slightly increased.
Carbon Monoxide -- The exhaust emissions of carbon monoxide (a poisonous gas) from biodiesel are on average 48 percent lower than carbon monoxide emissions from diesel.
Particulate Matter -- Breathing particulate has been shown to be a human health hazard. The exhaust emissions of particulate matter from biodiesel are about 47 percent lower than overall particulate matter emissions from diesel.
Hydrocarbons -- The exhaust emissions of total hydrocarbons (a contributing factor in the localized formation of smog and ozone) are on average 67 percent lower for biodiesel than diesel fuel.
Nitrogen Oxides -- NOx emissions from biodiesel increase or decrease depending on the engine family and testing procedures. NOx emissions (a contributing factor in the localized formation of smog and ozone) from pure (100%) biodiesel increase on average by 10 percent. However, biodiesel’s lack of sulfur allows the use of NOx control technologies that cannot be used with conventional diesel. Additionally, some companies have successfully developed additives to reduce Nox emissions in biodiesel blends.
Biodiesel reduces the health risks associated with petroleum diesel. Biodiesel emissions show decreased levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) and nitrated polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (nPAH), which have been identified as potential cancer causing compounds. In Health Effects testing, PAH compounds were reduced by 75 to 85 percent, with the exception of benzo(a)anthracene, which was reduced by roughly 50 percent. Targeted nPAH compounds were also reduced dramatically with biodiesel, with 2-nitrofluorene and 1- nitropyrene reduced by 90 percent, and the rest of the nPAH compounds reduced to only trace levels
(mostly copied from http://www.biodiesel.org/pdf_files/fuelfactsheets/emissions.pdf, based on an abbreviated summary of the EPA's testing).
What if all the fuel used by so many diesel rigs and train engines were 50 or more percent less polluting than current petroleum based standard? And if most or all of the fluids (for hydraulic pumps, etc.) were vegetable-based, and nearly no concern as pollutants? Imagine non-toxic transportation!!
This would certainly be a move in the proper direction, as enough biodiesel from algae could be produced in a much smaller area than is currently directly impacted individually by the coal industry, grazing land, or the oil industry--which has in the last thirty years held leases for 229 million acres in the Western United States alone, compared to the 9.5 million acres that would be necessary to produce enough biodiesel to provide fuel for the entire transportation needs of this country, even if every gasoline car were replaced by a biodiesel burning vehicle!! (See previous post entitled "What Would It Take To Make Enough Algae-Based Biofuel To Supply All U.S. Vehicle Needs?")