Building the Biodiesel Industry

Soybean growers are proud to help produce a renewable fuels solution: Biodiesel.

Biodiesel’s success benefits rural communities and urban areas alike, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions and powering vehicles and equipment. Soybean farmers have played a major role in the development and sustained success of the U.S. biodiesel industry, including supportive policy to secure and grow the biodiesel industry. Transportation is now our nation’s largest source of Greenhouse Gases (GHGs), so biodiesel can be part of a smart plan to dramatically reduce GHGs.

Biodiesel is a clean-burning alternative fuel produced from domestic, renewable resources–primarily recycled cooking oil, soybean oil, and animal fats. It is simple to use, biodegradable, nontoxic, and essentially free of sulfur and aromatics. Biodiesel contains no petroleum, but it can be blended at any level with petroleum diesel to create a biodiesel blend. Biodiesel blends can then be used in compression-ignition (diesel) engines with little or no modifications. It is simply a renewable, cleaner-burning diesel fuel replacement for any diesel engine.

Biodiesel is an environmentally beneficial fuel when measuring its carbon footprint, life cycle and energy balance. Every gallon of biodiesel produced in the U.S. displaces an equivalent amount of petroleum diesel fuel with a clean-burning, efficient fuel that, according to EPA, reduces lifecycle carbon dioxide emissions by as much as 86% compared to petroleum diesel fuel and creates 5.4 units of energy for every unit of energy that is required to produce the fuel.

Soybeans consist of 80% meal and 20% oil. As a vital protein source used for livestock feed, global demand for soybean meal continues to increase, while domestic demand for soybean oil in food uses has declined in recent years due to trans-fat related concerns. During this time, biodiesel production has provided an important market outlet for soybean oil. Over the past few years, 50% or more U.S. biodiesel has been produced from soybean oil, including repurposed cooking oil from the foodservice industry – the perfect way to use the whole bean and reuse rather that discard existing resources.

  • Reduces lifecycle greenhouse gases by 86% when compared to petroleum-based diesel fuel
  • Lowers particulate matter by 47% when compared to petroleum-based diesel fuel, reduces smog and makes our air healthier to breathe
  • Reduces hydrocarbon emissions by 67%
  • For every unit of fossil energy it takes to produce biodiesel, 3.5 units of renewable energy are returned, the best of any U.S. fuel.
  • Only alternative fuel to fully meet testing requirements of the Clean Air Act
  • Biodiesel Greenhouse Gas (GHG) reductions are on average 80% below petroleum diesel inclusive of land use impacts.
  • The Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory recently published the most up-to-date and comprehensive lifecycle analysis of biodiesel. According to the study, biodiesel made from soybean oil reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 72% compared to fossil fuel.
  • Many additional advanced biofuels – such as renewable jet fuel, naphtha, and heating oil – are coproducts of the biomass-based diesel industry.
  • Biodiesel is currently the only domestically produced and commercially available fuel that qualifies as an Advanced Biofuel under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

  • Biodiesel enhances the world’s protein supply: Soybeans are the most efficient way to grow protein for the food supply. However, when we grow protein to feed the world, we get more soybean oil than we can possibly consume as food or livestock feed.
  • Biodiesel has several positive impacts on the food supply. For instance, biodiesel uses only the oil portion of the soybean, leaving the protein intact to nourish livestock and people. By increasing yield without increasing crop acres, we are growing more fuel and food from the same land.
  • Reduces emission compounds linked to cancer by as much as 90%.
  • The Biomass-based Diesel (BBD) industry used 8.6 billion pounds of soybean oil in 2018. Without the biodiesel market, approximately 21% of the U.S. soybean oil supply would have nowhere to go.

  • Biodiesel is nontoxic and biodegradable.
  • Biodiesel production reduces wastewater by 79% and hazardous waste by 96%.
  • One gallon of biodiesel stores enough solar energy to purify 2,000 gallons of seawater to drinking water standards.

  • Soybeans consist of 80% meal and 20% oil. Biodiesel is produced from the soy oil, which means the meal can continue to be used for animal protein and the oil can be used for alternative fuel; less of the bean is wasted, and no additional land is needed for biodiesel production.
  • The federal Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) ensures sustainable resources are used in meeting the renewable fuel usage goals in the U.S. The EPA only approves renewable fuels for the program if (1) greenhouse gas emissions are significantly reduced compared to petroleum and, (2) it is certified that land was not converted to produce the renewable fuel.
  • Biodiesel is the first commercially available fuel to meet the EPA’s definition of an advanced biofuel.
  • These requirements protect forests and native grasslands and ensure renewable fuels have multiple environmental benefits over fossil fuels.

An increasing number of U.S. cities are switching their diesel fleets to biodiesel, including Washington, D.C., New Orleans, and New York.

  • NYC requires all city fleet vehicles and equipment to use biodiesel year-round, and it has built the nation’s largest and greenest fleet with nearly 20,000 city vehicles. More than 150 types of vehicles and equipment use biodiesel blends in the Big Apple’s fleet, including garbage trucks, mowers, beach-cleaning equipment, tractors, light towers, and generators.
    • BioHeat®Fuel is also very popular in NYC and other parts of the northeast and colder areas. Bioheat is a blend of traditional heating oil and biodiesel, offering a renewable, plant-based fuel source. As with traditional biodiesel used for transportation, the fats and oils used to produce the biodiesel used in BioHeat® are coproducts or byproducts of agriculture, including soybeans.
    • Bioheat® Fuel is a blend of biodiesel and ultra-low-sulfur heating oil (ULSHO). A more eco-friendly alternative to both traditional heating oil and natural gas heat (at blends of 12% biodiesel and beyond), Bioheat® can be used in existing home heating oil systems.
  • States – including California –are following suit with the switch to biodiesel. The Golden State’s governor has outlined a plan to switch entirely by 2030. California Advanced Biofuels Alliance says that growth of sustainable diesel could mean a reduction of 263 million tons of GHG emissions by 2030 – that’s a 71% decrease in GHG emissions compared to those from the climate-changing petroleum diesel used now.