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Biodiesel is a form of diesel fuel derived from plants or animals and consisting of long-chain fatty acid esters. It is typically made by chemically reacting lipids such as animal fat (tallow),[1] soybean oil,[2] or some other vegetable oil with an alcohol, producing a methyl, ethyl or propyl ester.

Unlike the vegetable and waste oils used to fuel converted diesel engines, biodiesel is a drop-in biofuel, meaning it is compatible with existing diesel engines and distribution infrastructure. Biodiesel can be used alone or blended with petrodiesel in any proportions.[3] Biodiesel blends can also be used as heating oil.

The US National Biodiesel Board defines "biodiesel" as a mono-alkyl ester.[4]

Pure biodiesel (B-100) made from soybeans

According to a study by Drs. Van Dyne and Raymer for the Tennessee Valley Authority, the average US farm consumes fuel at the rate of 82 litres per hectare (8.75 US gal/acre) of land to produce one crop. However, average crops of rapeseed produce oil at an average rate of 1,029 L/ha (110 US gal/acre), and high-yield rapeseed fields produce about 1,356 L/ha (145 US gal/acre). The ratio of input to output in these cases is roughly 1:12.5 and 1:16.5. Photosynthesis is known to have an efficiency rate of about 3–6% of total solar radiation[113] and if the entire mass of a crop is utilized for energy production, the overall efficiency of this chain is currently about 1%[114] While this may compare unfavorably to solar cells combined with an electric drive train, biodiesel is less costly to deploy (solar cells cost approximately US$250 per square meter) and transport (electric vehicles require batteries which currently have a much lower energy density than liquid fuels). A 2005 study found that biodiesel production using soybeans required 27% more fossil energy than the biodiesel produced and 118% more energy using sunflowers.[115]

However, these statistics by themselves are not enough to show whether such a change makes economic sense. Additional factors must be taken into account, such as: the fuel equivalent of the energy required for processing, the yield of fuel from raw oil, the return on cultivating food, the effect biodiesel will have on food prices and the relative cost of biodiesel versus petrodiesel, water pollution from farm run-off, soil depletion,[citation needed] and the externalized costs of political and military interference in oil-producing countries intended to control the price of petrodiesel.

The debate over the energy balance of biodiesel is ongoing. Transitioning fully to biofuels could require immense tracts of land if traditional food crops are used (although non food crops can be utilized). The problem would be especially severe for nations with large economies, since energy consumption scales with economic output.[116]

If using only traditional food plants, most such nations do not have sufficient arable land to produce biofuel for the nation's vehicles. Nations with smaller economies (hence less energy consumption) and more arable land may be in better situations, although many regions cannot afford to divert land away from food production.

For third world countries, biodiesel sources that use marginal land could make more sense; e.g., pongam oiltree nuts grown along roads or jatropha grown along rail lines.[117]

In tropical regions, such as Malaysia and Indonesia, pla

Jatropha has been cited as a high-yield source of biodiesel but yields are highly dependent on climatic and soil conditions. The estimates at the low end put the yield at about 200 US gal/acre (1.5-2 tonnes per hectare) per crop; in more favorable climates two or more crops per year have been achieved.[110] It is grown in the Philippines, Mali and India, is drought-resistant, and can share space with other cash crops such as coffee, sugar, fruits and vegetables.[111] It is well-suited to semi-arid lands and can contribute to slow down desertification, according to its advocates.[112]

According to a study by Drs. Van Dyne and Raymer for the Tennessee Valley Authority, the average US farm consumes fuel at the rate of 82 litres per hectare (8.75 US gal/acre) of land to produce one crop. However, average crops of rapeseed produce oil at an average rate of 1,029 L/ha (110 US gal/acre), and high-yield rapeseed fields produce about 1,356 L/ha (145 US gal/acre). The ratio of input to output in these cases is roughly 1:12.5 and 1:16.5. Photosynthesis is known to have an efficiency rate of about 3–6% of total solar radiation[113] and if the entire mass of a crop is utilized for energy production, the overall efficiency of this chain is currently about 1%[114] While this may compare unfavorably to solar cells combined with an electric drive train, biodiesel is less costly to deploy (solar cells cost approximately US$250 per square meter) and transport (electric vehicles require batteries which currently have a much lower energy density than liquid fuels). A 2005 study found that biodiesel production using soybeans required 27% more fossil energy than the biodiesel produced and 118% more energy using sunflowers.[115]

However, these statistics by themselves are not enough to show whether such a change makes economic sense. Additional factors must be taken into account, such as: the fuel equivalent of the energy required for processing, the yield of fuel from raw oil, the return on cultivating food, the effect biodiesel will have on food prices and the relative cost of biodiesel versus petrodiesel, water pollution from farm run-off, soil depletion,[citation needed] and the externalized costs of political and military interference in oil-producing countries intended to control the price of petrodiesel.

The debate over the energy balance of biodiesel is ongoing. Transitioning fully to biofuels could require immense tracts of land if traditional food crops are used (althoug

However, these statistics by themselves are not enough to show whether such a change makes economic sense. Additional factors must be taken into account, such as: the fuel equivalent of the energy required for processing, the yield of fuel from raw oil, the return on cultivating food, the effect biodiesel will have on food prices and the relative cost of biodiesel versus petrodiesel, water pollution from farm run-off, soil depletion,[citation needed] and the externalized costs of political and military interference in oil-producing countries intended to control the price of petrodiesel.

The debate over the energy balance of biodiesel is ongoing. Transitioning fully to biofuels could require immense tracts of land if traditional food crops are used (although non food crops can be utilized). The problem would be especially severe for nations with large economies, since energy consumption scales with economic output.[116]

If using only traditional food plants, most such nations do not have sufficient arable land to produce biofuel for the nation's vehicles. Nations with smaller economies (hence less energy consumption) and more arable land may be in better situations, although many regions cannot afford to divert land away from food production.

For third world countries, biodiesel sources that use marginal land could make more sense; e.g., pongam oiltree nuts grown along roads or jatropha grown along rail lines.[117]

In tropical regions, such as Malaysia and Indonesia, plants that produce palm oil are being planted at a rapid pace to supply growing biodiesel demand in Europe and other markets. Scientists have shown that the removal of rainforest for palm plantations is not ecologically sound since the expansion of oil palm plantations poses a threat to natural rainforest and biodiversity.[118]

It has been estimated in Germany that palm oil biodiesel has less than one third of the production costs of rapeseed biodiesel.[119] The direct source of the energy content of biodiesel is solar energy captured by plants during photosynthesis. Regarding the positive energy balance of biodiesel:[citation needed]

Multiple economic studies have been performed regarding the economic impact of biodiesel production. One study, commissioned by the National Biodiesel Board, reported the production of biodiesel supported more than 64,000 jobs.[93] The growth in biodiesel also helps significantly increase GDP. In 2011, biodiesel created more than $3 billion in GDP. Judging by the continued growth in the Renewable Fuel Standard and the extension of the biodiesel tax incentive, the number of jobs can increase to 50,725, $2.7 billion in income, and reaching $5 billion in GDP by 2012 and 2013.[120]

Energy security

One of the main drivers for adoption of biodiesel is energy security. This means that a nation's dependence on oil is reduced, and substituted with use of locally available sources, such as coal, gas, or renewable sources. Thus a country can benefit from adoption of biofuels, without a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. While the total energy balance is debated, it is clear that the dependence on oil is reduced. One example is the energy used to manufacture fertilizers, which could come fro

One of the main drivers for adoption of biodiesel is energy security. This means that a nation's dependence on oil is reduced, and substituted with use of locally available sources, such as coal, gas, or renewable sources. Thus a country can benefit from adoption of biofuels, without a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. While the total energy balance is debated, it is clear that the dependence on oil is reduced. One example is the energy used to manufacture fertilizers, which could come from a variety of sources other than petroleum. The US National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) states that energy security is the number one driving force behind the US biofuels programme,[121] and a White House "Energy Security for the 21st Century" paper makes it clear that energy security is a major reason for promoting biodiesel.[122] The former EU commission president, Jose Manuel Barroso, speaking at a recent EU biofuels conference, stressed that properly managed biofuels have the potential to reinforce the EU's security of supply through diversification of energy sources.[123]

Global biofuel policies

It was required by the Canadian Environmental Pr

It was required by the Canadian Environmental Protection Act Bill C-33 that by the year 2010, gasoline contained 5% renewable content and that by 2013, diesel and heating oil contained 2% renewable content.[124] The EcoENERGY for Biofuels Program subsidized the production of biodiesel, among other biofuels, via an incentive rate of CAN$0.20 per liter from 2008 to 2010. A decrease of $0.04 will be applied every year following, until the incentive rate reaches $0.06 in 2016. Individual provinces also have specific legislative measures in regards to biofuel use and production.[125]

United StatesThe European Union is the greatest producer of biodiesel, with France and Germany being the top producers. To increase the use of biodiesel, there are policies requiring the blending of biodiesel into fuels, including penalties if those rates are not reached. In France, the goal was to reach 10% integration but plans for that stopped in 2010.[124] As an incentive for the European Union countries to continue the production of the biofuel, there are tax rebates for specific quotas of biofuel produced. In Germany, the minimum percentage of biodiesel in transport diesel is set at 7% so called "B7".

Environmental effects

So-called fats,