Climate change has remained a popular discourse globally. What started as a concern among members of the scientific and academic communities a couple of decades ago is today approaching emergency levels.
In the intervening period dissimilar solutions have been proffered to reduce, if not completely, eradicate this threat to human existence. Even here scientists can’t quite agree on the way forward.
One point of consensus however is that excessive use of fossil fuels is the principal suspect responsible for climate change. If this is the case, then there is an urgent need for alternative sources of energy to lessen the dependence on fossil fuels. This is almost commonsensical.
One of these solutions is biodiesel. The use of biodiesel, instead of diesel developed from fossil fuels, can help reduce the greenhouse gas emissions and lessen the carbon footprint of the individual, business or country concerned. This is possible because it is a product of agriculture, as it is generated from atmospheric carbon dioxide through photosynthesis in plants.
Biodiesel, made from a range of oils and plants, has proven to be an effective substitute for diesel fuel. It is a clean, renewable and cost-effective source of energy. Since biodiesel fuels are plant based, they contribute less to global warming as the carbon in the fuel has been removed from the air by the plant feedstock. Experts insist that biodiesel is better for the environment because it reduces hydrocarbon emissions by over 67 percent (biodiesel.org).
To produce biodiesel, vegetable oils or animal fats are reacted with an alcohol or catalyst to convert them into biodiesel through a process known as transesterification. This process separates the glycerin from the oil or fat and the biodiesel is then produced.
Across the world, several vegetables are used for the production of biodiesel, but soybean oil, a plant-based vegetable oil, is gradually becoming the leading feedstock for production of biodiesel.
Soybeans biodiesel is significant as a sustainable fuel in three ways: social, economic and environmental, particularly in production and use. It contributes to energy security by providing an internally sourced fuel. It is a great way to conserve and boost the natural resource base and enhance eco-friendly quality to produce a frugally viable fuel and to improve the quality of life.
Another important quality of soybeans biodiesel is that it is biodegradable, non-toxic and produces a reduced amount of net-lifecycle carbon dioxide emissions.
Today, soybeans biodiesel can be used in existing engines with little, or no alteration made to the machineries. Undoubtedly, soybeans biodiesel is quietly emerging as an economically and environmentally vital option to reduce the effects of climate change.
It is, perhaps, time that government and businesses began to consider and indeed pursue it as a viable alternative for fossil fuel.
This is particularly important in a country like Nigeria where power supply is largely epileptic. So naturally, the bulk of people and businesses produce power using generating sets that run on fossil fuel, diesel or petrol.
This narrative can change. It is time to turn to biodiesel. Soybeans oil biodiesel is the way to go.
Busola Ogunmoyero, a researcher and Public Relations enthusiast, writes from Lagos.