Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

On-farm Biodiesel as a Model for Sustainability
by Vidali, Pierpaolo, M.A., Prescott College, 2011, 101; 1492187
Abstract (Summary)

There is a pressing need for environmentally-friendly alternatives to petroleum. Biodiesel has existed for several decades, though it has only become sought out as a fuel for personal vehicles and used on a widespread, commercial scale in the U.S. during the last eight years. To date, crops grown for biofuels have been largely produced by monoculture. Low maintenance crops like corn and soy are easily grown at a very large scale using a small number of tractors and minimal labor, and require limited irrigation. A switch to more diversified crops, for food and for fuel, will create more jobs but also more costs. Despite evidence to the contrary, there is an incorrect assumption that biofuel crops replace food crops. Instead, biofuel crops have always been used for feed as well as oil, or used for fermentation and then processed into feed.

When processing biodiesel, the scale of production is critical to sustainability. To produce sustainable biofuels of any kind it is necessary to move away from traditional, centralized industrial facilities which focus on the finished product above all else, while ignoring process efficiency and ecological intensity. On-farm or near-farm smaller scale plants that use locally sourced feedstock and significant amounts of renewable energy in internal processes lead to more sustainable practices. In this study, several farmers in the Northeast who grow oilseeds and process biodiesel were interviewed. The analysis of those interviews is presented in case studies, under the critical lenses of energy accounting, sustainable agricultural practices, and ecological health. These reports comprise a model of sustainability for producing biodiesel fuel from crops in the Northeast. Though this study is region-specific, these same strategies can be employed by farmers across the country to create new sources of income, increase self-sufficiency, and provide fuel to rural communities.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Ripple, Darien
Commitee: Tokar, Brian, Wetzel, Melanie
School: Prescott College
Department: Environmental Studies
School Location: United States -- Arizona
Source: MAI 49/05M, Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: Alternative Energy, Environmental Studies
Keywords: Biodiesel, Biofuel, Farm, Northeast, Oilseeds, Sustainable
Publication Number: 1492187
ISBN: 978-1-124-63091-5
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