What is Biodiesel?
Biodiesel is the name for a variety of ester-based
oxygenated fuels made from hemp oil, other vegetable
oils or animal fats. The concept of using vegetable
oil as an engine fuel dates back to 1895 when Dr.
Rudolf Diesel developed the first diesel engine to
run on vegetable oil. Diesel demonstrated his engine
at the World Exhibition in Paris in 1900 using
peanut oil as fuel.
Today's diesel engines require a clean-burning,
stable fuel that performs well under a variety of
operating conditions. Biodiesel is the only
alternative fuel that can be used directly in any
existing, unmodified diesel engine. Because it has
similar properties to petroleum diesel fuel,
biodiesel can be blended in any ratio with petroleum
diesel fuel. Many federal and state fleet vehicles
are already using biodiesel blends in their existing
low emissions of biodiesel make it an ideal fuel for
use in marine areas, national parks and forests, and
heavily polluted cities. Biodiesel has many
advantages as a transport fuel. For example,
biodiesel can be produced from domestically grown
oilseed plants such as hemp. Producing biodiesel
from hemp and other domestic crops reduces the
United States' dependence on foreign petroleum,
increases agricultural revenue, and creates jobs.
- Biodiesel is
the only alternative fuel in the US to complete
EPA Tier I Health Effects Testing under section
211(b) of the Clean Air Act, which provide the
most thorough inventory of environmental and
human health effects attributes that current
technology will allow.
- Biodiesel is
the only alternative fuel that runs in any
conventional, unmodified diesel engine. It can
be stored anywhere that petroleum diesel fuel is
- Biodiesel can
be used alone or mixed in any ratio with
petroleum diesel fuel. The most common blend is
a mix of 20% biodiesel with 80% petroleum
diesel, or "B20."
- The lifecycle
production and use of biodiesel produces
approximately 80% less carbon dioxide emissions,
and almost 100% less sulfur dioxide. Combustion
of biodiesel alone provides over a 90% reduction
in total unburned hydrocarbons, and a 75-90%
reduction in aromatic hydrocarbons. Biodiesel
further provides significant reductions in
particulates and carbon monoxide than petroleum
diesel fuel. Biodiesel provides a slight
increase or decrease in nitrogen oxides
depending on engine family and testing
procedures. Based on Ames Mutagenicity tests,
biodiesel provides a 90% reduction in cancer
- Biodiesel is
11% oxygen by weight and contains no sulfur. The
use of biodiesel can extend the life of diesel
engines because it is more lubricating than
petroleum diesel fuel, while fuel consumption,
auto ignition, power output, and engine torque
are relatively unaffected by biodiesel.
- Biodiesel is
safe to handle and transport because it is as
biodegradable as sugar, 10 times less toxic than
table salt, and has a high flashpoint of about
300 F compared to petroleum diesel fuel, which
has a flash point of 125 F.
- Biodiesel can
be made from domestically produced, renewable
oilseed crops such as hemp.
- Biodiesel is a
proven fuel with over 30 million successful US
road miles, and over 20 years of use in Europe.
- When burned in
a diesel engine, biodiesel replaces the exhaust
odor of petroleum diesel with the pleasant smell
of hemp, popcorn or french fries.
Congressional Budget Office, Department of
Defense, US Department of Agriculture, and
others have determined that biodiesel is the low
cost alternative fuel option for fleets to meet
requirements of the Energy Policy Act.
important factor that is not usually considered when
calculating the costs and benefits of industrial
feedstock materials is the macroeconomic effect
associated with domestically produced, renewable
energy sources. Economic benefits of a biodiesel
industry in the US would include value added to the
feedstock (oilseeds or animal fats), an increased
number of manufacturing jobs, an increased tax base
from plant operations and income taxes, investments
in plant and equipment, improvement of our trade
balance, and reductions in health care costs due to
improved air quality and greenhouse gas mitigation.
Biodiesel has positive impacts on the state economy.
An Iowa State University study concluded that three
economic benefits would accrue to state from
biodiesel. First, biodiesel expands demand for
soybean oil, causing processors to pay more for
soybeans, In addition, soybean farmers near the
biodiesel plant would receive slightly higher prices
for soybeans; and third, the presence of a facility
that creates energy from soybeans would add value to
the state's industrial and income base.
Hayes concluded that, "If the state of Iowa were to
mandate the use of a 20 percent biodiesel blend in
its state vehicle fleet where feasible, the total
additional cost of this policy would range from
$400,000 to $500,000. If it could be shown that this
policy would result in a new five million gallon
biodiesel plant in the state, then the policy would
create more new tax revenues than it would cost and
would clearly be in the best interest of the state."
Biodiesel has positive implications for production
agriculture. A 1996 economic study published by the
USDA Office of Energy predicted that a modest,
sustained annual market for biodiesel of 100 million
gallons in the US would contribute approximately
seven cents to the price of each bushel of soybeans
produced in the US. Based on last years harvested
crop, the increase could have resulted in more than
$168 million directly to the use of biodiesel.
Biodiesel has a positive impact on the US balance of
trade.A 1998 biodiesel lifecycle study jointly
sponsored by the US Department of Energy and the US
Department of Agriculture concluded that increased
use of biodiesel and biodiesel blended fuels such as
B20 would substantially benefit our economy. The
report concluded that national spending to import
petroleum sends significant amounts of dollars out
of our domestic economy every year. Biodiesel offers
the potential to shift this spending from foreign
imports to domestically produced energy. The report
notes: "With its ability to be used directly in
existing diesel engines, biodiesel offers the
immediate potential to reduce our demand for
petroleum in the transportation sector."
Biodiesel contributes jobs to the local economy.
Economic work conducted at the University of
Missouri estimated the benefits of producing
biodiesel in a metropolitan region. This study
concluded that 100 million gallons of biodiesel
production could generate an estimated $8.34 million
increase in personal income and over 6,000
additional temporary or permanent jobs for the