Biofuels and boating

Andy Adams

Apr 23, 2024

Last Tuesday I joined a webinar sponsored by the United States Department of Energy and their Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Luckily, I recorded the session so that I could go back and refer to it again. A lot of the science and terminology was not familiar to me. I wasn’t surprised by that but what I was hoping for was some sort of a top-line summary or concluding statement to help me understand how viable it might be in the future for the world to switch to biofuels.

As I understand it, these biofuels do not contribute to the degradation of our environment the way fossil fuels do. With the very erratic weather and climate extremes that we’ve experienced in the last couple of years, I certainly believe that we’re damaging our environment. Mankind is burning millions of barrels of oil every day. There has to be an impact.

What’s exciting about the concept of biofuels is that we may be able to move to biofuels in the future without dramatic cost to convert existing internal combustion engines. Apparently, those can be adjusted or re-programmed to operate on biofuels that do not do the same environmental harm as petroleum fuels. It seems unlikely this would work for cars and trucks given their thousands of kilometers on the street each year. But the engine in a boat simply does not rack up those operating hours.

There are a number of different ways to create biofuels (feedstocks and processes) and I have to believe that they are going to be much more expensive per gallon than traditional petroleum products like gasoline. But even if the new biofuels were double the price per litre of gasoline, it would be a small price to pay compared to buying a new boat engine. Or for that matter, converting your boat to electric and buying batteries.

I wish I could leave you with some clear and easily understood metrics but the hour-long webinar did not conclude with anything like an Executive Summary for a non-technical audience. So, I have my own conclusion and that is to reach out to the fuel suppliers and simply ask what is in store. More research is coming!

Andy Adams – Editor

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