By Hal Doby, February 17,2014
Based in part on an article "A brief history of biofuels, from the Civil War to today" By Dustin Driver
After the start of the 20th Century,
Then in the early 1970s, a group of small nations, had
formed a coalition called OPEC (the Organization of Oil Exporting Countries). They decided to impose an oil embargo on the
Part of that effort led to the introduction of biofuels into the market. It was hailed as a miracle of modern technology that promised to help solve our energy problems. Not only were biofuels a renewable source of energy since it's source was "grown" and the Americas were agriculturally quite strong, it was a mcu cleaner buring fuel that made environmentalists much more friendly to it. The environmentalists became champions of biofuels. As a stop-gap measure, some oil companies such as Citgo, developed major sales campaigns for a ten percent Ethanol/Petroleum blend they called Gasohol. Today, most gasoline that is available today is composed of this blend.
While many think biofuels are a
modern invention, yet they are far from it. In fact, our first fuels were what we today call biofuels.
The term"biofuel" is a late 20th century term. Let's rephrase this and all might come into focus. Throw some corn husks in a fermentation tank with some friendly bacteria, and you’ll eventually get the most common form of biofuel: Alcohol! Squeeze oily plants (like peanuts), and you’ll get another form of biofuel you can burn in such things as lamps. That use goes back to before biblical times. These forms of biofuels have been used for millennia, going back well into antiquity. Come forward to the 19th Century and during the beginnings of the Industrialized Age, some of the very first internal combustion engines were designed to run on these biofuels. By the mid-1800s, there were a number of engineers and inventors that based their internal combustion engine on using grain alcohol and peanut oil as the source fuel for their contraptions.
In 1826, American Samuel Morey ran a prototype engine on alcohol. In 1860, Nikolaus Otto, inventor of the Otto-cycle engine, burned ethyl alcohol in his engines. It seemed that alcohol would be the dominant liquid fuel of the burgeoning Industrial Revolution. Believe it or not, the diesel engine was originally designed to operate on peanut oil. Later on, the Ford Model T was capable of running on alcohol as were other early automobiles.
In 1861, the secession movement took hold and
the first States left the Union to form the Confederate States of
Prior to the 1860s, the Federal Government had imposed very high tarrifs on agricultural products that had badly impacted the Southern States since they were primarily agricultural while the Northern States, due to their climate, became more involved in manufacturing and industry. Since the alcohol tarrifs were based on agriculturally derrived products, this was seen as a yet another negative act aimed at the Southern States, despite the sucession movement and the creation of the Confederate States of America.
The Internal Revenue Act achieved its goal and slowed
inflation, but thanks to the high tarrifs on alcohol, it really put a dent in alcohol production. The tax on alcohol in
all its forms was $2 per gallon. At the same time, fossil fuels were arriving
in the marketplace and offered an affordable alternative to the now-much higher
priced alcohol biofuels. Where Alcohol was taxed at $2 per gallon, Kerosene,
the still-used pre-curser to Gasoline, was taxed at only 10 cents per gallon. As
a result, fossil fuel use flourished in the
In Europe, alcohol-based fuels were
still being widely used since there were none of the high taxes
During the start of motorcycle and
automobile sales in the United States, ethanol and gasoline were sold
out of general and hardware stores. The fuels were purchased and
carried home in cans or buckets, then put into the vehicles. As sales
of these vehicles began to escalte, Standard Oil came up with the
concept of stand-alone gasoline "stations" where not only could a
customer purchase gasoline, but it was placed directly into the vehicle
right there by help service attendees. Other items such as lubrication
oils and general automotive maintanence service was available that
relieved the average car owner form having to do most service
maintanence themselves. This really went far to make the automobile
more useable to women of the period. When the gasoline stations began to sprout up accross the
The powerful monopolies that petroluem created alarmed and worried many, especially politicians. Multiple efforts were made
to change that in the States.President,
Theodor Roosevelt led the charge to free alcohol fuel
production from taxation and government control, mainly on the idea to
help break up the monopoly Standard Oil had created. In 1906, the
It is quite clear that Petroleum's dominance
will continue through most of the Twenty-First Century.