Biodiesel Provides Opportunity for Energy Conservation

Aug. 10, 2001
Biodiesel provides an immediate opportunity to conserve energy because every gallon of biodiesel fuel used in place of ordinary petroleum-based diesel

Biodiesel provides an immediate opportunity to conserve energy because every gallon of biodiesel fuel used in place of ordinary petroleum-based diesel fuel has the potential of extending non-renewable fossil energy reserves by four times, according to Joe Jobe, executive director of the National Biodiesel Board, Jefferson City, Missouri.

The National Biodiesel Board is funded in part by the United Soybean Board and state soybean board check-off programs.

Jobe cited a Department of Energy lifecycle analysis, which finds that biodiesel, has the highest energy balance of any fuel, of 3.2-to-1. This is compared to 0.83-to-1 for petroleum diesel fuel.

"For every unit of energy used to produce biodiesel, 3.2 units of energy are gained. This is the highest energy balance of any fuel and four times higher than conventional diesel fuel," Jobe says.

Biodiesel, which is an alternative fuel made from natural, renewable sources such as soybean oil, was the focus of a half-day outreach session conducted by the Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) at its facility in Beltsville, Maryland.

At the event, a variety of biodiesel uses were demonstrated based on the ARS use at the Henry A. Wallace Beltsville Agricultural Research Center. The center uses biodiesel to power various kinds of equipment such as generators and mowers. It also uses biodiesel as a heating fuel in some buildings.

In conjunction with the event, Secretary of Agriculture Ann M Veneman, announced that she had signed a directive that ordered all USDA fuel tanks to be filled with biodiesel nationwide, where feasible.

In making the announcement, Secretary Veneman said, "Agriculture can help us solve our energy problems through the production of domestic liquid fuels, such as ethanol and biodiesel. Renewable energy is good for independence, good for farmers, and good for the environment."

Jobe and other participants in the outreach session emphasized that biodiesel not only reduces CO2 emissions but is also recognized as reducing health hazards from diesel exhaust.

In the question and answer session, Jobe and his NBB colleague, Alan Weber, pointed out that biodiesel has premium diesel characteristics including high lubricity and high cetane, which leads to reduced maintenance cost and increased engine life.

Biodiesel performs comparably to diesel, and has similar BTU content. It is the safest of all fuels to use, handle and store. More than 100 major fleets use biodiesel, including public utilities, government agencies, school districts, and other transit authorities.

The fuel has been proven successful in more than 40 million road miles and countless off-road, marine, boiler and generator applications.

Biodiesel is listed with the Department of Energy as an alternative fuel and is registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as both a fuel and fuel additive.

It is the only alternative fuel to have passed the rigorous Health Effects testing requirements of the Clean Air Act. The results, submitted to the EPA in 2000, show biodiesel is non-toxic, biodegradable and free of sulfur.

It reduces carbon monoxide, unburned hydrocarbons and particulate matter emissions.

Readers can learn more about the August 7 ARS, USDA, Outreach Session and biodiesel by visiting