Cynthia A. Janak
October 25, 2006
The "crude" truth -- diesel engines -- oil companies' great fear
By Cynthia A. Janak

In my past articles about what is going on with the oil companies and their pursuit of profits, I did not give you the solution. The solution is simple and it scares the oil giants. In this article, I will show you the way to lessen the impact of gasoline prices to your wallet. I believe that if we lessen our reliance, as a nation, on foreign and domestic oil we will be less inclined to the whims of lobbyists and foreign powers and enjoy a cleaner environment.

First, I am going to give you some history behind the Diesel Engine.

The Diesel Engine was designed and built by Rudolf Diesel and it ran on pure groundnut oil. He was very concerned about the soot, grime and dirt of the industrial age, and he decided to make a clean engine to replace the use of steam boilers. The engine he designed was much cleaner than coal fired steam boilers. It used renewable energy, and seen as a way to prevent the smog, soot and grime of the 19th century.

Rudolf Diesel had a humanitarian vision. He was concerned about the pollution of the industrial age that he lived. This spurred his desire to create a clean engine to replace the steam boiler engine that ran on coal. His engine would be adaptable in size and utilized locally available fuels like vegetable oil.

Rudolf Diesel said, "The diesel engine can be fed with vegetable oils and would help considerably in the development of agriculture of the countries which use it"

"The use of vegetable oils for engine fuels may seem insignificant today. But such oils may become in course of time as important as petroleum and the coal tar products of the present time."

He also felt that his engine would enable independent craftsmen, artisans, farmers and small industry to endure the powered competition of larger industries that virtually monopolized the predominant power source, the oversized, expensive, fuel-wasting steam engine.

In 1896, he demonstrated a model with the theoretical efficiency of 75%, which was in contrast to the 10% efficiency of the steam engine. By 1898, his engines were used to power pipelines, electric and water plants, automobiles and trucks, and marine craft.

At the 1900 World's Fair, Diesel ran his engines on peanut oil. He knew vegetable oils (including hemp) and seed oils would power his engine. Diesel saw his engine as a solution to the pollution being created during his time. In his bio-oil solution, Diesel provided a technological and energy choice for the consumer that made integrating petroleum needless and cut into the petrol oil monopoly profits.

On September 29th, 1913, Rudolf Diesel died under mysterious circumstances. He vanished during an overnight crossing of the English Channel on a mail steamer Dresden from Antwerp to Harwich. After his death, the Diesel engine was engineered to run only on petroleum and his great ideas of a clean burning engine died with him.

George Schlichten later invented a hemp 'decorticating' machine that stood poised to revolutionize papermaking. Henry Ford demonstrated that cars could be made of, and run on, hemp.

Evidence suggests that a special-interest group was not happy with these innovations. This group consisted of William Randolph Hearst, DuPont petrochemical company and Secretary of the Treasury Andrew Mellon (DuPont's major financial backer). Hearst started a yellow journalism campaign against hemp. He purposely confused the psychoactive marijuana with industrial hemp, one of humankind's oldest and most useful resources. The reason for this was Hearst and DuPont were heavily invested in timber and petroleum resources, and hemp was a threat to their empires. Petroleum companies also knew that petroleum emitted noxious and toxic byproducts when incompletely burned, as in an auto engine.

In 1937, DuPont, Mellon and Hearst were able to push a "Marijuana" prohibition bill through Congress in less than three months and destroyed the domestic hemp industry.

I find it interesting how the well financed interest groups and lobbyists are able to influence the elected officials away from what would have been a benefit to the American farmer and citizens. The American farmer would have been able to grow industrial hemp that had many uses. The citizen would have had a cleaner world to raise their children and grand children. Instead, because of the successful lobbying efforts our reliance on oil increased.

Now back to the present day. I found this article on the Guardian Unlimited, a UK news source. It is titled "Fry and Drive," dated January 20th, 2003 by Jim White. Here are a few excerpts from that story.

"The appreciation in Wales that you could cheerfully run your diesel vehicle on cooking oil really began to take hold during the fuel-price disputes in the autumn of 2000. Fuming farmers and haulers with the hump parked their trucks and tractors across the entrance to the oil refinery at Milford Haven, which services much of Wales. They were protesting against levels of fuel duty that they considered unsustainable, and their blockade was so successful that, after a couple of days of panic buying, virtually every garage in the principality had run out of stocks. Nicholson, who lives in a remote part of rural mid-Wales, was typical of those affected.

"We don't have a television, so I'd been unaware that the blockade was happening," he recalls. "I went out to get some diesel and every garage had run out. My wife's a nurse and needed the car to get to work. I panicked rather."

Returning home, he looked round for alternative fuels, and tried a bit of central heating oil, which worked, he says, reasonably well. Then remembering his schoolboy mechanics, he popped some cooking oil into his Volvo. "It mixed with the little bit of diesel I had left in the tank," says Nicholson. "Not only did it work, the vehicle actually behaved better. I never heard my car sound so good, there was a fantastic noise, not a clickety-click, more of a grunt. And the, of course, there was the smell." He used vegetable oil to tide him over until the blockade ended. But so happy was he with the performance it gave, that he decided to use it full time, and set up a website to exchange information on biopower. He discovered that they have been doing this sort of thing in Germany for years not simply because it is cheaper, but because of the environmentally beneficial effects of using sustainable fuels made from rape and sunflower sees rather tan fossil fuels. Over there it is a sizeable industry, supported by tax breaks; it is no coincidence that Mercedes and Volkswagen engines are the most cooking-oil tolerant on the market. Indeed Mercedes motors are so accommodating that they will, apparently, run on lard."

"Not far from Llanelli, in Laugharne, home of Dylan Thomas, an engineering student called Chris Dovey joined Nicholson's biopower network last June. Since then he has been running his Ford van entirely on cooking oil. ...he gets it used, from the canteen in Haverfordwest County Hall. He filters it, adds a drop of white spirit, and hey presto after a little modification to the blades of his fuel pump his van runs like a dream. "Well," he says, "the first ever diesel engine ran off peanut oil, so I'm just following tradition."

"...I suppose if I factored in the time I spend filtering the stuff, it wouldn't work out so cheap," says Dovey. "But there's a little bit of me that says it's worth it just to be getting one over on the big oil companies, really."

I read several stories like this and the only complaint about using cooking oil is that it made some people hungry and smelled like a barbeque. I think I personally would rather smell French fries instead of gasoline fumes any day.

I decided to find more information about biodiesel. So, what is biodiesel? Biodiesel is the name of a clean burning alternative fuel, produced from domestic, renewable resources. Biodiesel contains no petroleum, but it can be blended at any level with petroleum diesel to create a biodiesel blend. It can be used in compression-ignition (diesel) engines with little or no modifications. Biodiesel is simple to use, biodegradable, nontoxic and essentially free of sulfur and aromatics.

Biodiesel has similar horsepower, torque and BTU content compared to petroleum diesel. It offers excellent lubricity and higher cetane than diesel fuel.

Biodiesel is the only alternative fuel to have completed the rigorous Health Effects testing requirements of the Clean Air Act. Results show biodiesel reduces carcinogenic air toxics by 7590% compared to diesel, and that biodiesel is low in toxicity, readily biodegradable and free of sulfur. Its use reduces emissions like carbon monoxide, particulate matter and unburned hydrocarbons. Soy biodiesel also reduces carbon dioxide by 78 percent on a lifecycle basis, according to a joint U.S. Department of Agriculture U.S Department of Energy study.

I would like to know why we have not heard about this study or other world/local news in regards to biodiesel. I can only deduce that is because the oil industry monopoly would be hurt by such environmentally friendly news and they do not want to give up their market share.

If a tax initiative is put in place to assist the average tax payer to convert their diesel vehicle to biodiesel fuel or purchase a diesel vehicle to replace their present gasoline auto we would see the fuel emissions reduced quickly without the Kyoto treaty. The only drawback is that we would be thinking more about French fries. Burger King and McDonalds beware. If this becomes a reality, you may run out of French Fries... and more people would be going to places like Bally's and Cardinal Fitness. This could be a good thing.

Could you imagine what the skies would be like in California if 65% of the vehicles on the roadways ran biodiesel? That would be a fantastic site to see. There would be no reason to have a fuel shortage, gas hikes or flaring in Nigeria. The price of fuel will be dramatically reduced because people would be using a clean renewable energy source instead. Eventually we would not have to worry about leaking pipelines polluting streams and fauna. The other abuses by the oil industry would become extinct like the dinosaurs. I think that would be a great thing. Eventually we could leave fossil fuels to the fossils.

This next section is for those of my readers who own a vehicle with a diesel engine.

Another thing I found about biodiesel is that you can make it in your garage. If you put biodiesel and kit into your search engine, you come up with all kinds of sites that have the equipment necessary to do this. I do not recommend any one specifically because I do not know enough about the distillation processes. I do recommend that you do your own due diligence and research each individual process to make an educated decision to what may suit your own needs.

I have a suggestion to Governor Schwarzenegger. How about starting the ball rolling in this country with a bio-diesel initiative for California? I am not going to try to propose this to my Governor Blagojevich because I, personally, do not see him as an environmentally concerned individual.

I would like everyone to write a note to Governor Schwarzenegger requesting that he put a tax initiative for bio-diesel to the California voters. Here is where you can contact Governor Schwarzenegger to give him your opinion about a bio-diesel initiative.

Contact the Governor

Governor's Office
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
State Capitol Building
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: 916-445-2841
Fax: 916-445-4633


To send an Email please visit:

To help us keep track of correspondence and to ensure that we are able to respond to California residents, please be sure to include your name and address when you communicate with the Governor's Office. We do not accept e-mail attachments.

I am requesting, from my readers, information about the distillation processes for vegetable oil to make bio-diesel. In the future, I would like to purchase a system for my personal use when I upgrade my personal vehicles to diesel.


Just a little side note here taken from the German Embassy in Washington D.C. I would like to know where the U. S. is in regards to renewables. All I hear about is drilling new oil fields, gasoline shortages and higher gas prices. What is wrong with the U. S. picture here?

Report: Germany is world champion in use of renewables

Two years after the renewables 2004 conference in Bonn, the global policy network REN21 (Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st century) has now published an update of its report. According to the report Germany remains world champion in the use of renewable energies.

Germany leads in production of biodiesel

In the field of bio-diesel Germany still takes the lead. Half of the 2005 global bio-diesel production came from German sources and the increase of bio-diesel consumption in the EU was 75 %.

Germans are getting creative and at the same time going back to the basics when it comes to developing and harnessing new energy sources. Grass, trash and manure are on the same list as wind and sun as viable and even profitable energy sources. The burgeoning industries in renewable energy sources are getting help from public financing and price guarantees to ensure that "bioenergy" will take off. And among the industries taking seriously the challenge to protect the environment is the German auto industry which is developing clean-burning cars.

Contact your Senator and Congressperson to find out where we are as a nation to having a clean alternative to gasoline. Shouldn't we be ahead of other countries in our war on pollution?


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© Cynthia A. Janak

Comments feature added August 14, 2011

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Cynthia A. Janak

Cynthia Janak is a freelance journalist, mother of three, foster mother of one, grandmother of five, business owner, Chamber of Commerce member... (more)


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