Alternatives To 100LL

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So, you've heard diesel engines can run on cooking oil. It may still be a while yet before you can fill your tank with recycled cooking grease and take off smelling of french fries -- but maybe not as long as you think. Rising gas prices have reignited interest in alternative fuels, and increased research could in the future mean more choices for pilots. This week in Texas, country star Willie Nelson opened a new biodiesel production plant, the 66th in the nation. Another 49 are in the works. Biofuels, which are generally a mix of diesel and plant-derived oils, work fine in car engines, but they tend to congeal in the cold -- not a good thing for aircraft engines that run at high altitudes. Researchers in North Dakota said earlier this year they are making progress toward solving the cold-temperature problems. Annual biodiesel production reached 75 million gallons in 2005, three times as much as the year before, according to the National Biodiesel Board. Production could reach 150 million gallons this year. The board also says that for every unit of fossil energy needed to make biodiesel, 3.2 units of energy are gained. In contrast, it takes 1.2 units of fossil resources to produce 1 unit of petroleum diesel.