Two chemists, E. Duffy and J. Patrick, are credited with first experimenting with transesterification using vegetable oils to make soap in 1853, many years before the first diesel engine became functional. (Biodiesel Times, 2005). The resultant biofuel by-product was later named “biodiesel” after a motor engine inventor.


     Rudolph Diesel, on August 10, 1893, first demonstrated the use of peanut oil to run his compression ignition engine. This date has since come to be known as International Biodiesel Day. (Wikipedia, 2007).  He later won the Grand Prix (highest prize) for his innovation in 1897 at the World’s Exhibition Fair in Paris. He believed that biofuel was a viable alternative to the resource consuming steam engine. He was right, as vegetable oils continued to be used to power vehicles until the 1920’s. (Yokayo Biofuels, 2006).

     Henry Ford was also a proponent of biomass fuels. He designed his 1908 Model T automobile so that it could be powered with ethanol, a common biofuel made from hemp or corn. (Yokayo Biofuels, 2006).


     In the 1920’s, with the development of engines capable of utilizing a residue of the fossil fuel, petroleum, there began a rapidly growing trend away from using biofuels. The petroleum industry severely undercut biofuel sales so that the ideals promoted by Diesel and Ford went by the wayside. The American industrialists of the 1930’s such as William Randolph Hurst, the Rockefellers, and Andrew Mellon (then United States Secretary of Treasury), among others, all of whom had significant investments related to the petroleum industry, launched campaigns to discredit the use of hemp (i.e.; the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937) and thereby caused the demise of the biofuel industry. (Yokayo Biofuels, 2006)