Biodiesel benefits underestimated by 10%

By Qsthomson (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
By Qsthomson (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

The benefits of biodiesel are even better than previous models have suggested, according to new scientific research. New modelling from Purdue University suggests the advantage of using biodiesel has been underestimated by 10%.

“This latest research verifies biodiesel is an ideal option to support American-made energy and renewable fuels,” said Don Scott, National Biodiesel Board Director of Sustainability. “The more accurate the models become, the more clearly they show biodiesel’s benefits.”

For close to ten years, researchers from the US’ Environmental Protection Agency, the California Air Resources Board and a handful of scientific institutions have been trying to determine how major biofuel policies might impact land use around the world.

One theory is that policies promoting biofuels produce economic incentives encouraging farmers to plant more crops. Because federal policy does not allow biofuels from new cropland to participate in incentive programmes, it is assumed that these additional crops and food and livestock feed to global markets.

EPA and CARB have used computer models to predict this additional production in response to the economic signal from biofuels.  If there are carbon emissions associated with creating new farmland, EPA and CARB follow this theory to add those estimated carbon emissions to the lifecycle of biofuels.

Aiming to mitigate against any unintended effects of biodiesel production, this conservative approach also impacts biodiesel’s carbon score when compared to petroleum fuel. If the indirect effects are removed, biodiesel reduces greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) by 85& when compared to fossil fuels. If the indirect effects are included, the GHG benefits of biodiesel over fossil fuels fall to just 50%, according to modelling done by EPA in 2010 and CARB in 2014.

Purdue University’s research, which has been published in the journal Biotechnology for Biofuels, argues these measures underestimate the benefit of biodiesel by 10%.

“Biodiesel is already recognised as the commercial biofuel with the lowest net GHG emissions. The power in these new findings is that science is improving.  The prediction of economic impacts and land use change is becoming more reliable.  More data has been analyzed today than has ever been available in the past.  The data shows that farmers all around the world are becoming more efficient.  We are feeding better food to more people, and we are doing it using less land,” Scott said.

“This is great news, because agriculture is our most powerful tool to turn solar energy and carbon dioxide into things like food and biodiesel.  This is a powerful formula, because sunshine is free, and farming turns the liability of excess carbon dioxide into an asset when we use it to support American jobs. Biodiesel is a powerful driver to create jobs and help our environment. As these models look more and more like the real world, biodiesel’s extensive real-world benefits come into focus.”


By Qsthomson (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons