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Biofuels Building Steam

While biodiesel has been around for over a century, it has only become popular in the last decade or so as the green movement has accelerated. It is one of the only alternative fuels compatible with most commonly used diesel engines – usually only minimal motor adjustments are needed. Last month President Obama even announced new tax incentives to encourage its adoption.

If recent investments herald a growing trend, major advances in biofuel production are coming down the pipeline. Sapphire Energy has just secured a series C round of venture capital funding to the tune of $144 million for its algae-based oil production, Harvest Power closed a $110 million financing deal for its biomass power generation capabilities, and Mitsui Engineering and Inbicon – of Japan and Denmark respectively – just signed a licensing deal to bring ethanol biomass refineries to Southeast Asia.

Now could be the time for biodiesel and other biofuels to shine. According to a recent report released by auto industry data firm R.L. Polk & Co., hybrid vehicle owners returning to the car market are not purchasing another. In fact, only 35% of the owners polled said they bought another hybrid. The increased availability of alternative fuel vehicles – especially highly efficient new diesel models – almost certainly had a large effect on these buying habits.

Biodiesel and biofuels in general are environmentally friendly in the extreme. The plants they come from require existing carbon dioxide to grow, making them inherently carbon-neutral. They are renewable on a yearly basis at worst. And they can be made from existing waste and excess resources. It sure doesn’t hurt that some passing cars burning biodiesel smell like french fries either.

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