What is biodiesel?

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Biodiesel is a renewable, clean-burning diesel replacement that is reducing U.S. dependence on foreign petroleum, creating jobs and improving the environment. Made from a diverse mix of feedstocks including recycled cooking oil, soybean oil, and animal fats, it is the first and only EPA-designated Advanced Biofuel in commercial-scale production across the country and the first to reach 1 billion gallons of annual production. Meeting strict technical fuel quality and engine performance specifications, it can be used in existing diesel engines without modification and is covered by all major engine manufacturers’ warranties, most often in blends of up to 5 percent or 20 percent biodiesel. It is produced at plants in nearly every state in the country.

With just over a decade of commercial-scale production, the industry is proud of its careful approach to growth and strong focus on sustainability. The biodiesel market has increased from about 25 million gallons in the early 2000s to more than 2.8 billion gallons of advanced biofuel in 2016. This represents a small but growing component of the annual U.S. on-road diesel market of about 35 billion to 40 billion gallons. Consistent with projected feedstock availability, the industry has established a goal of producing about 10 percent of the diesel transportation market by 2022.

Reaching that goal would significantly lessen U.S. dependence on imported oil, bolstering national security and reducing our trade deficit. At the same time, biodiesel’s growth would boost the U.S. economy, not just by creating jobs but also by reducing our dependence on global oil markets and vulnerability to price spikes. There are currently about 200 biodiesel plants across the country – from Washington state to Iowa to North Carolina – with registered capacity to produce some 3 billion gallons of fuel. The industry is supporting nearly 48,000 jobs, generating billions of dollars in GDP, household income and tax revenues. The industry’s economic impact is poised to grow significantly with continued production increases. The industry supports jobs in a variety of sectors, from manufacturing to transportation, agriculture and service.

The EPA has recognized biodiesel’s environmental benefits by classifying it as an Advanced Biofuel, making biodiesel the only commercial-scale U.S. fuel produced nationwide to meet the agency’s advanced criteria. According to the EPA, biodiesel reduces greenhouse gas emissions by at least 57 percent and up to 86 percent when compared to petroleum diesel – making it one of the most practical and cost-effective ways to immediately address climate change. In addition, biodiesel sharply reduces major tailpipe pollutants from petroleum diesel, particularly from older diesel vehicles. This is important because the EPA has consistently cited diesel exhaust – primarily from older trucks, buses and other vehicles – as one of the nation’s most dangerous pollutants.

Biodiesel is produced using a broad variety of resources. This diversity has grown significantly in recent years, helping shape a nimble industry that is constantly searching for new technologies and feedstocks. In fact, industry demand for less expensive, reliable sources of fats and oils is stimulating promising research on next-generation feedstocks such as algae and camelina.

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