Energy In Balance

Published on: 15:24PM Nov 17, 2009
The days of calling biodiesel “inefficient” are waning.
Newly published research from the University of Idaho and USDA shows that biodiesel returns more than four times the energy it takes to make the fuel from soybeans. So for every unit of fossil energy needed to produce biodiesel from soybeans, the return is 4.5 units of energy.
The National Biodiesel Board is calling on the EPA to own up to these scientific conclusions. Currently, the EPA’s proposed rule to implement the expanded Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS2) uses 2005 baseline numbers for petroleum and biodiesel to project carbon impact 22 years in the future.
These old numbers unfairly stack the deck in favor of petroleum. Biodiesel efficiencies have come a long way since 2005.

Don’t forget that biodiesel is also a source of co-products, like glycerin, for which EPA does not credit biodiesel. The USDA/Idaho study finds other key drivers that continue to make biodiesel an efficient fuel choice:
  • New seed varieties and management practices are upping soybean yields.
  • Farmers have minimized cultivation of the soil. These reduced tillage practices have cut how much fuel they need to grow soybeans.
  • Modern soybean varieties have reduced the need for pesticides.
  • Today’s soybean processing and biodiesel plants are more energy efficient.