Biodiesel is a diesel fuel derived from biological sources such as soybean oil, animal fats, waste vegetable oils, or even some strains of algae. In the United States most biodiesel currently is made from soy oil, but this fuel can also be made from other vegetable oils, including rapeseed (canola), palm tree, olive, peanut, safflower, sunflower, and castor.
Biodiesel can be used in place of, or mixed with, petroleum diesel in commercial and personal vehicles, in oil burners (including home furnaces) and in other diesel engines. A fuel blend that includes up to 20 percent biodiesel can be used in most diesel engines with little or no modification.
In times of high oil prices, some people become interested in producing small quantities of biodiesel for use in their personal vehicles or home heaters. However, biodiesel production can be hazardous, as well as smelly and messy, and requires that producers take care not to contaminate the environment or violate tax laws.
Benefits of Biodiesel
- Biodiesel can be a renewable fuel, if the plants used to produce it are grown sustainably.
- Plant-based biodiesel is a low carbon intensity fuel, if the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from burning it are balanced by CO2 uptake into a new crop.
- Domestically-produced biofuel can help reduce dependence on foreign petroleum.
- Biodiesel production is a beneficial re-use of restaurant waste grease and animal fat that otherwise might end up in landfills.
Issues Associated with Biodiesel
- When biodiesel is made from food oils, a potential conflict arises between food and fuel uses of the plants and the land where they are grown.
- Air pollutants produced from biodiesel combustion need additional study and, possibly, control measures.
- Like any other biofuel, biodiesel requires energy to transport the feedstock material, to produce the fuel, and to transport the fuel to where it is used. Calculations of the cost-benefit of biodiesel must include energy consumed in the complete life cycle of the material, from field to delivered fuel.
More about Biodiesel:
- Biodiesel Fact Sheet - Before you consider making biodiesel at home ... Read this fact sheet.