Biodiesel Benefits


Biodiesel is a clean burning fuel produced from agricultural resources such as vegetable oils (e.g., soybean oil, canola oil, sunflower oil, recycled cooking oils and animal fats). The base oil is put through a simple refining process using an industrial alcohol (ethanol or methanol) and a catalyst to convert the oil into biodiesel. Biodiesel in its pure form is known as B100, but it can also be blended with petroleum-based diesel at any level. Common blends include B5 (5 percent biodiesel and 95 percent diesel) and B20 (20 percent biodiesel and 80 percent diesel). Biodiesel is registered with the U.S. Environmental Production Agency (EPA) and is legal for use at any blend level on both highway and nonroad diesel vehicles.

Biodiesel is the smart fuel solution for our economy, the environment, and our customers (commercial and municipal fleet managers, farm operators, and consumers). Because it is made from renewable, domestic resources, the use of biodiesel decreases our dependence on foreign oil and supports our U.S. economy. Biodiesel has lower emissions compared to petroleum diesel, is less toxic than table salt, and biodegrades as quickly as sugar, making it a smart solution for our environment.

Biodiesel is Clean

According to the National Biodiesel Board, “Biodiesel is the only alternative fuel in the country to have successfully completed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) required Tier I and Tier II health effects testing under the Clean Air Act. These independent tests conclusively demonstrated biodiesel’s significant reduction of virtually all regulated emissions, and showed biodiesel does not pose a threat to human health.

Biodiesel contains no sulfur or aromatics, and use of biodiesel in a conventional diesel engine results in substantial reduction of unburned hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and particulate matter. A U.S. Department of Energy study shows that the production and use of biodiesel, compared to petroleum diesel, results in a 78.5% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. Additionally, biodiesel has a positive energy balance. For every unit of energy needed to produce a gallon of biodiesel, 3.24 units of energy are gained.”

Biodiesel is Safe

Biodiesel is 100% non-toxic and 100% biodegradable offering fleet managers a smart alternative to petroleum diesel – making it safer to store, handle and clean up fuel. Biodiesel degrades about four times faster than petroleum diesel. In tests, blends of B20 biodegraded twice as fast as diesel alone. Additionally, petroleum diesel has a flash point of 125 degrees F whereas biodiesel has a flash point of over 300 degrees F, making biodiesel much safer to store and manage under heated conditions.

Biodiesel is Cost Effective

Biodiesel has no infrastructure cost. Because biodiesel works with all diesel engines, fleet managers can continue to leverage their existing fleets, spare parts inventories, refueling stations and skilled mechanics. The use of biodiesel can also extend the life of fleet vehicles by organically lubricating and cleaning out the buildup inside vehicle engines. The lubricity benefit makes engine parts last longer, especially with the new ultra-low sulfur fuel in the marketplace. Just 2% biodiesel can add 65% more lubricity.

Like all other fuels, the cost of biodiesel varies. The price of biodiesel depends largely on the market price for vegetable oil and animal fat since these are the main ingredients in the fuel. During summer months as fuel prices climb, biodiesel blend prices have proven to be historically lower than the price of petroleum diesel; however, during winter months as petroleum fuel prices fall, biodiesel blend prices can be slightly higher.

Biodiesel is EPAct Compliant

Congress approved the use of biodiesel as an Energy Policy Act (EPAct) compliance strategy in November 1998. The legislation allows EPAct-covered fleets (federal, state and public utility fleets) to meet their alternative fuel vehicle purchase requirements by purchasing 450 gallons of pure biodiesel and burning it in new or existing diesel vehicles in at least a 20% blend with diesel fuel. The Congressional Budget Office and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have confirmed that the biodiesel option is the least-cost alternative fuel option for meeting the Federal government’s EPAct compliance requirements. Because biodiesel works with existing diesel engines, it offers an immediate and seamless way to transition existing diesel vehicles into a cleaner burning fleet.

Federal agencies can meet up to 50% of their AFV acquisition credits by using biodiesel fuel. Under the biodiesel fuel use credits provision, fleets may choose to operate existing diesel vehicles that weigh more than 8,500 lbs. on blends of biodiesel in lieu of purchasing a new alternative fuel vehicle. For each 450 gallons of pure biodiesel purchased and used, an alternative fuel vehicle credit is awarded. To constitute a “qualifying volume” a 20% biodiesel blend (B20) or higher blend must be used. For example, if a fleet manager wished to qualify for the credit using 100 percent biodiesel he/she would need to purchase and use 450 gallons of B100 fuel to receive one credit. Alternatively, if a fleet manager wanted to qualify for the credit using 20 percent biodiesel, he/she would need to purchase and use 2,250 gallons of B20 fuel. B20 is also approved as a compliance tool for Executive Order 13149.

Sourced in part: National Biodiesel Board