While the history of electric vehicles has been getting a lot of play lately, biofuels have quite a story to tell as well. Hemmings Daily just featured a brief history overview that's full of surprises – one is that biofuels date back more than 300 years, well before any real internal combustion engines.

Biofuels come from the same fermentation and distilling process that produces alcohol. Around the 1700s, people began processing corn husks, oily plants (such as peanuts) and crop waste into a fuel that could be burned in stoves, lamps and then was an ingredient in moonshine. Alcohol was one of the very first fuels influencing the design of internal combustion engines around the world. US citizen Samuel Morey was credited with running his prototype engine on alcohol in 1826.

But the passage of the Internal Revenue Act in 1862 had an impact, taxing alcohol at $2 per gallon, played a big role in biofuels fizzling out.

But the passage of the Internal Revenue Act in 1862 had an impact, taxing alcohol at $2 per gallon, played a big role in biofuels fizzling out. Europeans continued to use ethanol and other biofuels for tractors, farm equipment, stoves and lamps. German inventor Rudolph Diesel got busy trying to get his famous diesel engine to run on peanut oil. The most fascinating American mentioned in the article is Henry Ford. 100 years ago, companies like Standard Oil were putting a lot of cheap gasoline on the market and Ford eventually saw that the Model T would run on gasoline. There was a time, though, where he advocated biofuels.

Ford saw biofuels as a pragmatic symbol for American economics, unifying farms and factories. Farmers could use their crop waste to fuel factories, and factories could make farm equipment and passenger cars. The early Model T was designed to run on both alcohol and gasoline. Ford was convinced that another reason to go this route was that America would someday run out of oil that was easy to pump out of the ground. 100 years later, we're finding out he was right. Read the Hemmings Daily article for more.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      2 wheeled menace
      • 8 Months Ago
      Well let me throw some biofuel on the fire ;)... right around the time that oil was becoming more common, prohibition happened, hemp got banned. So ethanol and hemp fuel were locked out of the fuel market, and what do you know, gasoline won! Fancy that!
        • 8 Months Ago
        @2 wheeled menace
        @ 2 wheeled menace Nope, ethanol, hemp fuel etc were just not as cheap or energy rich as oil ! What killed hemp production was Dupont's invention of synthetic fabric, and the need after the second world war to make something illegal to replace prohibition. 70 years later we still have ludicrous news coverage of heavily armed law enforcement, arresting pot plants ! Pictures of stern faced G-men "busting" a major haul of herbage, while celebrating making the community safer lighting us a cigarette and opening another alcoholic beverage. (sigh)
          2 wheeled menace
          • 8 Months Ago
          I'm not sure about the energy density of hemp fuel so i am going to assume you're right. Not that we could really know, since it has been prohibited to even grow the stuff commercially for so long, like what 80 years? Gasoline is indeed more energy dense, but it did not have good octane back then due to no additives, which produced lower power levels in early gasoline cars. During prohibition, the alcohol runners found out how to modify their cars to take advantage of the higher octane and outrun the police. This is how stock car racing was invented. So the fact that automobile fuel could be grown in your backyard was very threatening to the oil men at that period of time. If you dig deep enough, you can find their connection with supporting prohibition, which set ethanol back for a long time. Long enough for oil to become the predominant fuel, and all newer cars be designed to run on gasoline. So back in the 1930's, ethanol was better in a lot of ways. It did not win on it's technical merits. It won based on the political clout of the Rothschilds and Rockefellers. As for hemp, AFAIK as a fabric and material, it did not lose on it's technical merits either. Rudolph Hearst had his hand in getting it criminalized because it competed with paper, who he was highly invested in on the side. I don't know why marijuana prohibition still continues, but we are finally loosening up about it here in the states, thank heavens. What a waste of money and innocent people's livelihood it is to prosecute someone for possessing/using such a harmless substance.
      • 8 Months Ago
      wood, dung, whale oil, peat, coal, , ,
      Allch Chcar
      • 8 Months Ago
      It's very much a case of what is old is now new. There is still plenty of propaganda and Oil companies continue their FUD campgains that biofuels are dirty. Despite overwhelming scientific evidence and a hundred years of study to the contrary.
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