Biodiesel Fuel: Homegrown Oil

Learn how clean, renewable biodiesel fuel is a sustainable alternative to petroleum-based fuel and how it can power any diesel engine.

  • Sunflower
    Biodiesel can be made from any oil-producing crop. For example, an acre of sunflowers yields about 102 gallons of biodiesel fuel.
  • Biodiesel, a clean, renewable fuel that can power any diesel engine.
  • A biofuels dispenser at Baca Street Biofuels in Santa Fe, N.M., offers a blend of 20 percent biodiesel, 80 percent petrodiesel.
  • Biodiesel can be produced on any scale from an industrial facility to a blender in the kitchen. This trailer holds all the equipment necessary to produce biodiesel on the road.
    NREL/Warren Gretz
  • Many crops can be used to produce oil for biodiesel, including soybeans, which yield about 48 gallons per acre.
  • North Dakota Extension specialist Gary Willoughby uses biodiesel to fuel a tractor.
  • Shawn Antaya of Boulder, Colo., holds biodiesel, which costs him about 50 cents a gallon to brew.
  • Harvesting oil from algae is still in the research phase, but estimates indicate it could produce more than 3,500 gallons per acre.

  • Sunflower

Imagine a renewable, clean-burning fuel that can be produced from local crops and could power a large number of existing vehicles — starting now. That fuel is biodiesel, which is made primarily of vegetable oil and alcohol and can be used in any modern diesel engine.

In the last few years, many farmers, environmentalists and other renewable energy advocates have begun promoting biodiesel as an alternative fuel that could replace at least a portion of the world’s petroleum-based diesel fuel market. Using biodiesel is an idea with widespread appeal because it pollutes far less than petroleum-based diesel and could help reduce our need for foreign oil.

In fact, biodiesel fuel already is widely used in Europe, where tax policies are structured to support its use. In Germany — where diesel engines power close to 40 percent of passenger cars — more than 1,800 filling stations offer biodiesel at a price competitive with that of petroleum-based diesel fuel.

In the United States, the public is just becoming aware of the potential of biodiesel, but the development of a biodiesel industry is already well underway. Many Midwestern soybean farmers have joined forces with other entrepreneurs to build biodiesel production capacity and infrastructure. At the same time, federal and state agencies and independent organizations have been testing biodiesel performance and setting production standards. With that firm foundation, the commercial biodiesel industry is growing rapidly, and biodiesel is becoming more accessible to drivers eager to fill their cars with this eco-friendly fuel. However, biodiesel can be used for more than fueling diesel-powered cars or trucks. In fact, the majority of the world’s heavy-transportation is diesel-powered, and all of these vehicles could be powered by biodiesel: buses, trucks, tractors, heavy machinery, boats and even trains. Biodiesel also can be used in any diesel-powered electrical generator, as well as in oil-fired furnaces and boilers (see Heat Your Home with Biodiesel).

Liquid Solar Energy

Although “diesel” is part of its name, pure biodiesel does not contain any petroleum-based diesel, also called “petrodiesel.” Instead, biodiesel is created from organic matter. It can be made from virtually any vegetable oil, including soy, corn, rapeseed (canola), peanut or sunflower — as well as from recycled cooking oil, animal fats or even algae.

Biodiesel has been called “liquid solar energy” because its energy content is derived from plants that capture solar energy during photosynthesis. The plants grown to produce biodiesel consume carbon dioxide (CO2), so they naturally balance most of the CO2 released when the fuel is combusted, offsetting a major contributing factor to global warming.



Feb 19-20, 2022
Belton, Texas

Join us for a much anticipated return to the Lone Star State! Earlybird ticket discounts are now available online.


Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 64% Off the Cover Price

50 Years of Money-Saving Tips!

Mother Earth NewsAt MOTHER EARTH NEWS for 50 years and counting, we are dedicated to conserving our planet's natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. You'll find tips for slashing heating bills, growing fresh, natural produce at home, and more. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.95 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.95 for 6 issues.

Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
International Subscribers - Click Here
Canadian subscriptions: 1 year (includes postage & GST).

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter flipboard

Free Product Information Classifieds Newsletters