Biodiesel is a diesel fuel alternative that can be made from a variety of different oil sources, such as recycled waste vegetable oil, canola, soybean oil, algae, or animal fat. The feedstock oil is turned into biodiesel using a chemical process called transesterification, which removes the glycerin, and a water washing process that removes other impurities. The result is methyl esters (the chemical name for biodiesel), which can be used in most diesel vehicles with little or no modification, blended with petroleum diesel in any proportion or used alone as B100 (100% biodiesel).
- Biodiesel is cleaner-burning than petroleum diesel, making it better for the environment as well as for local air quality. Replacing petroleum diesel with biodiesel significantly reduces emissions of particulate matter, unburned hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide. Please see the National Biodiesel Board's Emissions Fact Sheet to see the specific emissions reductions for B20 (20% biodiesel blend) and B100 as compared to petroleum diesel. In California, the Air Resources Board (CARB) estimates that diesel exhaust particles account for about 70 percent of the cancer risk from toxic air pollutants.
- Biodiesel is a renewable fuel source because it can be made from a variety of different plants and waste products. Petroleum diesel, by contrast, is made from fossil fuels, which take millions of years to form and are inherently limited in supply.
- Biodiesel has a closed carbon lifecycle, because the plants used to produce it absorb carbon from the air when the grow. By contrast, the burning of fossil fuels (such as petroleum diesel) releases carbon into the atmosphere that has been trapped deep in the Earth's crust for millions of years, amounting to a net carbon gain that contributes to global warming.
- Biodiesel can be a sustainable energy source if it is made from recycled oils or local feedstocks that use good farming practices. Sustainable biodiesel production can help support local agriculture and improve farming practices by providing a valuable market for good rotation crops such as canola. By encouraging rotation farming to replenish the soil between growing seasons of conventional crops, the biodiesel market can help reduce the use of harmful chemical fertilizers without sacrificing profits for local agriculture.
- Biodiesel is non-toxic, emits no harmful fumes, is biodegradable, and is a non-flammable Class III B liquid. All of these things make biodiesel much less dangerous than diesel for transportation, storage and handling.
Because biodiesel is better for air quality and better for the environment, the EPA and CARB's goals of reducing overall vehicle emissions will be well served by preserving biodiesel compatibility in new vehicles. Click here to sign the petition!