The Drawbacks of Biodiesel

I have always liked the idea of renewable fuels. If done right they can make a contribution to the overall energy policy for the US. Unfortunately, if done wrong they can cause problems. One of the renewable fuels is Biodiesel. The National Biodiesel Board website describes Biodiesel as America’s first Advanced Biofuel (Biodiesel, 2015). The website goes on to explain that “It is a renewable, clean-burning diesel replacement that is reducing U.S. dependence on imported diesel, creating green jobs and improving our environment. It is made from an increasingly diverse mix of resources including agricultural oils, recycled cooking oil and animal fats and meets the strict specifications of ASTM D6751 (Biodiesel Fuel, 2015).

ASTM D 6751 provides the following technical definition for Biodiesel – “Biodiesel, n – a fuel comprised of mono-alkyl esters of long chain fatty acids derived from vegetable oils or animal fats, designated B100, and meeting the requirements of ASTM D 6751” (Biodiesel Basics, 2015).

The Green the Future website lists the following Biodiesel pros and cons (Biodiesel Pros, 2015).

  • Pros
  • Positive Energy Balance
  • Cheap Feedstock
  • GHG Reduction
  • Biodegradable
  • Economic Benefits
  • Ready to Use
  • Home Heating
  • Third World Benefit
  • Cons
  • Gelling
  • Automotive Breakdowns
  • Poor Quality
  • Reduced Fuel Efficiency
  • More Expensive
  • Unavailable
  • Highly Combustible

The US derives a many great benefits from Biodiesel. However, the Cons take away from the benefits. Bjørn Lomborg wrote an article for the Telegraph that addresses the issues the EU is experiencing with Biodiesel (The Great, 2015). He stated that the EU Green Energy Program “costs billions of pounds annually and causes at least 30 million people to go hungry every year (The Great, 2015).”  It appears that what was labeled as a CO2 neutral program, but it may cause air pollution. Furthermore, using food products for biofuels reduces the amount available for people to consume. It is important to note that biofuels using waste products are preferred to using grown products.

The amount of biodiesel is governed in the US by goals established in the Renewable Fuel Standard. “Congress created the renewable fuel standard (RFS) program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and expand the nation’s renewable fuels sector while reducing reliance on imported oil.

The RFS program was authorized under the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and expanded under the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007” (Renewable, 2015). Today the nation finds itself at a crossroads. “The EPA is preparing to finalize new targets” (War, 2015). This has become a controversial issue because the EPA is late in revealing the new targets. Many think the targets will be flat or reduced due to issues with availability. While others want the program scrapped altogether. Determining new targets for future years could create more food shortages as well as exacerbate other negative issues. This may be a time to keep the previous targets until the issues are worked out. This would give everyone time to look at using waste instead of crops.

Using biofuels has pros and cons. The program has had its issues, but can contribute to reducing pollution and provide options in the US energy policy. However, the negative issues with biofuels must be addressed. Leaving targets where they are for future years or even reducing them can provide time to resolve the negative issues.


Biodiesel – America’s first advanced biofuel! (n.d.). Retrieved from

Biodiesel Basics – (n.d.). Retrieved from

Biodiesel Pros and Cons. Retrieved from

Renewable Fuel Standard Program | US EPA. (n.d.). Retrieved from

The great biofuels scandal – Telegraph. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Wars over EPA Renewable Fuel Standard heat up | WOPULAR. (n.d.). Retrieved from

About Fred Fanning Author

Fred Fanning spent over 20 years in the safety profession. His final safety position was as the Director of Occupational Safety and Health for the U.S. Department of Commerce. He began writing in 1994, published his first book in 1998, and began writing professionally in 2015. He has authored and coauthored articles, written books, and chapters for technical books and stories for anthologies.
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