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BioDiesel - a Renewable Fuel

BioDiesel Made from Vegetable Oils and Animal Fats
BioDiesel as a Transportation Fuel
BioDiesel and the Environment

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    BioDiesel made from vegetable oil is a renewable fuel that is a direct replacement for regular #2 diesel fuel which is distilled out of petroleum oil. BioDiesel is a non-toxic environmentally friendly Carbon Neutral fuel. The most common kind of BioDiesel in the USA is made from soybean oil. Home made BioDiesel is usually made from recycled waste restaurant oils & grease. Most commercial U.S. producers make BioDiesel from new soybean oil.

    BioDiesel is often blended with petroleum diesel at 2 percent (B2), 5 percent (B5), or 20 percent (B20). It can also be used as pure or neat BioDiesel (B100). BioDiesel can be used in any regular diesel vehicle without making changes to the engines. It can be safely transported, stored and used just like regular diesel fuel.

    Since recent price increases at the pump, BioDiesel has really started to catch on. Biofuel isn't a new idea. Way back in 1900 well before petroleum based fuel became popular, Rudolf Diesel, the inventor of the diesel engine, ran his new Diesel engine on peanut oil as fuel for his experimental engine at the Paris World Fair. It seems we may be going back to running Diesel engines on vegetable oil just like the inventor did 100 years ago!

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    Most trucks, buses, and tractors in the United States burn #2 diesel fuel. Diesel fuel is a nonrenewable fuel made from fossil petroleum. Every time we use BioDiesel it means that we use a little bit less fossil petroleum. Being Carbon Neutral, BioDiesel makes less air pollution than petroleum diesel. Any vehicle that can operate on diesel fuel can switch to BioDiesel without any changes.

    Because it is so clean burning, economical  and easy to use, BioDiesel is the fastest growing fuel for fleet vehicles. Many school districts are switching to BioDiesel blends for their school bus fleet. BioDiesel is also being used in the cities to operate fleets of snowplows, garbage trucks, mail trucks, and military vehicles. Until recently the use of BioDiesel was limited to fleets of vehicles that had their own fueling stations. More public fueling stations that offer BioDiesel are popping up every day around the country. Take a look and you might be able to locate it near you. Since it is so easy to make, a lot of people are now making their own BioDiesel.

    B100 and BioDiesel blends are sensitive to cold weather and may require special anti-freeze, just like petroleum-based diesel fuel does. BioDiesel acts like a detergent additive, loosening and dissolving sediments in storage tanks. Because BioDiesel is a solvent, B100 may cause older type rubber components to fail in vehicles. Since newer model vehicles are made with fuel resistant rubber parts, this problem does not occur with them.


    BioDiesel is a renewable resource, nontoxic, carbon neutral and is biodegradable. Compared to regular diesel fuel, BioDiesel is much cleaner burning, produces fewer air pollutants, and smells a lot better. Particulates, carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, and air toxics are also lower. Sometimes BioDiesel even smells like french fries!

    Regular #2 diesel fuel contains sulfur. Sulfur can cause damage to the environment when it is burned in fuels. New environmental laws now require S15 diesel fuel. On October 2006 the amount of sulfur in S500 U.S. diesel fuel was dramatically reduced from 500 to 15 parts per million & called S15. When sulfur is removed from regular diesel fuel, the fuel doesn't lubricate as well and can affect the fuel system o-rings causing leaks. Adding a small amount of BioDiesel to the diesel fuel can help fix the problem. BioDiesel has no sulfur, so it can reduce sulfur levels in the nation's diesel fuel supply while making engines run more smoothly.

Last Revised: May 2005
Sources: Energy Information Administration, Annual Energy Review 2003, September 2004.
The National Energy Education Development Project, Alternative Fuels: What Car Will You Drive?, 2004.
U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Alternative Fuels Data Center, October 2004.


    Scientists believe carbon dioxide is one of the main greenhouse gases contributing to global warming. Neat BioDiesel B100 reduces carbon dioxide emissions by more than 75% over petroleum diesel. Using a blend of BioDiesel B20 reduces carbon dioxide emissions by 15%. BioDiesel is Carbon Neutral.


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Last modified: 12/26/18