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Back To Diesel Products>Biodiesel Myths: BUSTED

Article by Jenna Higgins
National Biodiesel Board

The television show Mythbusters on the Discovery Channel takes commonly held beliefs and puts them to the test of real science. Some hold up and are confirmed by the facts, some are ranked just plausible, but many are BUSTED. If only more citizens would take the time to learn the facts, and not be persuaded by the myths…especially in the case of biodiesel! Though the show has yet to feature biodiesel myths, when they are held up to real science, they fall cleanly in the BUSTED category. Here are some of the most common biodiesel myths featured in a new document published by the National Biodiesel Board.

Myth: Biodiesel contributes to global climate change and increased greenhouse gas emissions.

Fact: U.S. biodiesel is a green, sustainable part of the solution. It reduces lifecycle carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, by 78 percent compared to petroleum diesel. A 2008 USDA/University of Idaho study shows for every unit of fossil energy needed to create biodiesel, 4.5 units of energy are returned. New cropland is not needed to grow materials for biodiesel, because soybeans are not grown for fuel, and there is a surplus of soybean oil on the market. Advances in technology enable us to grow more using the same acres of land. The National Biodiesel Board and its members support sustainable production of biodiesel. There is no scientific basis for assigning any significant responsibility for rainforest destruction to U.S. biodiesel, and the vast majority of U.S. biodiesel is made from homegrown resources.

Myth: Biodiesel contributes to rising food prices.

Fact: Produced from a wide variety of renewable resources, including plant oils, fats and even recycled restaurant grease, biodiesel is the most diversified fuel on the planet. And soybean-based biodiesel has a positive impact on the world’s food supply. Processing soybeans for biodiesel uses only the oil, leaving 80 percent of the bean for protein-rich soybean meal. By creating a market for soybean oil (a co-product of soybean meal), we increase the availability of protein-rich meal for human and livestock consumption. This has a positive impact on the food supply. From an economic standpoint, the increased meal supply results in a more cost-effective food and feed source.

Myth: Biodiesel doesn’t work in cold weather.

Fact: Properly managed, high quality biodiesel blends are used successfully in the coldest of climates. Biodiesel will gel in very cold temperatures, just as common #2 diesel does. Although pure biodiesel has a higher cloud point than #2 diesel fuel, typical blends of 20 percent biodiesel are managed with similar management techniques as #2 diesel. Blends of 5 percent biodiesel and less have virtually no impact on cold weather operability. See for a cold weather guide.

Myth: Biodiesel is an experimental fuel and has not been thoroughly tested.

Fact: Biodiesel is one of the most thoroughly tested alternative fuels on the market. A number of independent studies – performed by the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Stanadyne Corp. (the largest diesel fuel injection equipment manufacturer in the U.S.), Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute, and Southwest Research Institute – have shown that biodiesel performs similar to petroleum diesel with greater benefits to the environment and human health.

Myth: No objective biodiesel fuel standard exists.

Fact: The biodiesel industry has been active in setting quality standards for biodiesel for more than 15 years. ASTM specifications exist for diesel fuel and biodiesel fuel blends from 6 to 20 percent (B6 – B20 (D7467-09)), biodiesel blends up to B5 to be used for on and off-road diesel applications (D975-08a), and home heating and boiler applications (D396-08b). ASTM approved the original specification for pure B100 (D6751) in December 2001. These ASTM specifications apply regardless of the fat or plant oil used to make the fuel. Copies of specifications are available from ASTM at

Myth: 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 most existing engines and fuel injection equipment in blends up to 20 percent 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).

Myth: Biodiesel use voids manufacturers’ engine warranty coverage.

Fact: All major U.S. automakers and engine manufacturers accept the use of up to at least B5, and many major engine companies have stated formally that the use of high quality biodiesel blends up to B20 will not void their parts and workmanship warranties. For a listing of specific statements from the engine companies, please visit the National Biodiesel Board Web site at

Myth: Biodiesel has fuel quality problems.

Fact: A study released in 2008 by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) shows the biodiesel industry has substantially met national fuel quality standards. The study demonstrated that plants certified under BQ-9000 consistently hit the mark. BQ-9000 is a voluntary fuel quality assurance program that couples the foundations of universally accepted quality management systems with the product specification (ASTM D6751). The program covers storage, sampling, testing, blending, shipping, distribution and fuel management practices. Biodiesel production facilities certified as producers under the program cover nearly 80 percent of the U.S. biodiesel market volume.

Myth: Biodiesel does not have sufficient shelf life.

Fact: The current industry recommendation is that biodiesel be used within six months, or reanalyzed after six months to ensure the fuel meets ASTM specifications. 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. A longer shelf life is possible depending on the fuel composition and the use of storage-enhancing additives.

Jenna Higgins is the Director of Communications at National Biodiesel Board,






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