Myths and Facts
Biodiesel is an experimental fuel and has not been thoroughly
Fact: Biodiesel is one of the most thoroughly
tested alternative fuels on the market. A number of independent
studies have been completed with the results showing biodiesel
performs similar to petroleum diesel while benefiting the environment
and human health compared to diesel. That research includes studies
performed by the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Department
of Agriculture, Stanadyne Automotive Corp. (the largest diesel
fuel injection equipment manufacturer in the U.S.), Lovelace Respiratory
Research Institute, and Southwest Research Institute. Biodiesel
is the first and only alternative fuel to have completed the rigorous
Health Effects testing requirements of the Clean Air Act. Biodiesel
has been proven to perform similarly to diesel in more 50 million
successful road miles in virtually all types of diesel engines,
countless off-road miles and countless marine hours. Currently
more than 300 major fleets use the fuel.
Biodiesel does not perform as well as diesel.
Fact: One of the major advantages of biodiesel
is the fact that it can be used in existing engines and fuel injection
equipment with little impact to operating performance. Biodiesel
has a higher cetane number than U.S. diesel fuel. In more than
50 million miles of in-field demonstrations, B20 showed similar
fuel consumption, horsepower, torque, and haulage rates as conventional
diesel fuel. Biodiesel also has superior lubricity and it has
the highest BTU content of any alternative fuel (falling in the
range between #1 and #2 diesel fuel).
Biodiesel doesn't perform well in cold weather.
Fact: Biodiesel will gel in very cold temperatures,
just as the common #2 diesel does. Although pure biodiesel has
a higher cloud point than #2 diesel fuel, typical blends of 20%
biodiesel are managed with the same fuel management techniques
as #2 diesel. Blends of 5% biodiesel and less have virtually no
impact on cold flow.
Biodiesel causes filters to plug.
Fact: Biodiesel can be operated in any diesel
engine with little or no modification to the engine or the fuel
system. Pure biodiesel (B100) has a solvent effect, which may
release deposits accumulated on tank walls and pipes from previous
diesel fuel use. With high blends of biodiesel, the release of
deposits may clog filters initially and precautions should be
taken to replace fuel filters until the petroleum build-up is
eliminated. This issue is less prevalent with B20 blends, and
there is no evidence that lower-blend levels such as B2 have caused
filters to plug.
A low-blend of biodiesel in diesel fuel will cost too much.
Fact: Using a 2% blend of biodiesel is estimated
to increase the cost of diesel by 2 or 3 cents per gallon, including
the fuel, transportation, storage and blending costs. Any increase
in cost will be accompanied by an increase in diesel quality since
low-blend levels of biodiesel greatly enhance the lubricity of
Biodiesel causes degradation of engine gaskets and seals.
Fact: The recent switch to low-sulfur diesel
fuel has caused most Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) to
switch to components that are also suitable for use with biodiesel.
In general, biodiesel used in pure form can soften and degrade
certain types of elastomers and natural rubber compounds over
time. Using high percent blends can impact fuel system components
(primarily fuel hoses and fuel pump seals) that contain elastomer
compounds incompatible with biodiesel, although the effect is
lessened as the biodiesel blend level is decreased. Experience
with B20 has found that no changes to gaskets or hoses are necessary.
No objective biodiesel fuel formulation standard exists.
Fact: The biodiesel industry has been active
in setting standards for biodiesel since 1994 when the first biodiesel
taskforce was formed within the American Society for Testing and
Materials (ASTM). ASTM approved a provisional standard for biodiesel
(ASTM PS 121) in July of 1999. The final specification (D-6751)
was issued in December 2001. Copies of specifications are available
from ASTM at http://www.astm.org.
Biodiesel does not have sufficient shelf life.
Fact: Most fuel today is used up long before
six months, and many petroleum companies do not recommend storing
petroleum diesel for more than six months. The current industry
recommendation is that biodiesel be used within six months, or
reanalyzed after six months to ensure the fuel meets ASTM specifications
(D-6751). A longer shelf life is possible depending on the fuel
composition and the use of storageenhancing additives.
Engine warranty coverage would be at risk.
Fact: The use of biodiesel in existing diesel
engines does not void parts and materials workmanship warranties
of any major US engine manufacturer.
The U.S. lacks the infrastructure to prevent shortages of the
Fact: There are presently more than 14 companies
that have invested millions of dollars into the development of
the biodiesel manufacturing plants actively marketing biodiesel.
Based on existing dedicated biodiesel processing capacity and
long-term production agreements, more than 200 million gallons
of biodiesel capacity currently exists. Many facilities are capable
of doubling their production capacity within 18 months.
There is no government program to support development
of a biodiesel industry.
Fact: The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced
in January 2001 the implementation of the first program providing
cost incentives for the production of 36 million gallons of biodiesel.
Bills supporting the use of biodiesel and ethanol were also introduced
to the U.S. Congress in 2003, including one that would set a renewable
standard for fuel in the U.S. and one that would give biodiesel
a partial fuel excise tax exemption. More than a dozen states
have passed favorable biodiesel legislation.
: National Biodiesel Board, USA