Biodiesel is a diesel fuel that is animal fat-based or vegetable oil-based diesel fuel. The fat or oil becomes biodiesel when mixed with alcohol. This fuel is designed to be used in standard diesel engines, which makes it different from waste and vegetable oils that are used in converted diesel engines. Sometimes petrodiesel is blended with biodiesel, but it can be used by itself as well. It is also able to be used as an alternative to heating oil that produces much less carbon when burned. The U.S. National Biodiesel Board refers to biodiesel as a mono-alkyl ester.
Biodiesel is used around the world, and it is sometimes blended with conventional hydrocarbon-based diesel and sold at retail diesel fuel sites. The system called the “B” factor indicates the amount of biodiesel in a fuel mixture. Pure biodiesel is 100 percent pure, and it is labeled B100. It is not used in this form as much as the more popular B20, which is 20 percent biodiesel and 80 percent petrodiesel. There are other mixtures with only 5 percent biodiesel, called B5 or 2 percent diesel, referred to as B2. When used in its 100 percent pure state, diesel engines must have modifications or may have performance and maintenance problems. Blends of 20 percent biodiesel or less do not usually require modification of the engine they are used in. If they do, only slight changes are required. A vehicle’s warranty may be affected if biodiesel has been used, and the engine is not working properly.
Environmental concerns over carbon emissions by traditional diesel fuel have increased interest in biodiesel. It is believed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation pollution, and the rate of biodegradation. Studies that were released by the Environmental Protection Agency’s Renewable Fuel Standards Program Regulatory Impact Analysis in 2010 found that there was an average of 57 percent reduction in greenhouse gases when biodiesel was used as opposed to traditional fossil fuel. In addition waste grease results were 86 percent lower than with fossil diesel fuel. For these reasons, the development and production of biodiesel is very important to worldwide pollution reduction and the greenhouse effect on the ozone.
There are environmental concerns over the use of soybean-oil, palm oil- based biofuel, and others that require vast amounts of plants to produce enough oil to be converted to biodiesel. Although biofuel has been shown to reduce the amount of pollution emitted by trucks, trains, and other vehicles that use it, the negative impact of using limited land to produce plants for fuel rather than as food-growing sources is a concern. This is especially true since food shortages are predicted for developing countries in the next 10 to 20 years. In addition, removing the natural growth of the rain forest in tropical areas to grow palm trees for oil to sell to Europe and other areas will have additional negative effects on the natural balance of the environment.
Developed countries are willing to pay Indonesia, Malaysia, and other developing countries to raise plants which can be converted to biodiesel. Some countries are pursuing this alternative to purchasing expensive oil from the Middle East. This further ignites the controversy over whether the advantages of biodiesel are worth the negative effects of displacing natural land growth with crops that produce oil is worthwhile to the entire globe in the long run. Other factors that are currently being debated by environmentalists, politicians, and scientists are how the increased need for much additional farm machinery and fertilizer would alter the environment.
Biodiesel fuel is available throughout the U.S. There are websites that can help a farmer, truck driver, or someone with a diesel engine in their car find a gas station in their state that sells biodiesel.