Advantages & Disadvantages to Biodiesel Fuel

Written by dennis hartman
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Advantages & Disadvantages to Biodiesel Fuel
Biodiesel can be made from many common crops. (corn field 3 image by Jim Parkin from

As researchers, engineers and automakers work toward creating new alternatives to fossil fuels, biodiesel fuel has emerged as one option for powering cars in the near future. Biodiesel comes from plant or animal oils, and offers several distinct advantages and disadvantages when compared to conventional diesel and other fuels.

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One of the biggest advantages of biodiesel fuel is that its sources are renewable. Biodiesel fuel can contain oils from animal fat, corn, soybeans and other common crops. Not only does this mean that farmers can regrow crops for fuel every year, but also that farmers around the world can grow whichever biodiesel source is best suited for a specific region or climate. Being renewable also ensures reasonable price stability; biodiesel fuel is not subject to unexpected shortages or the discovery of new sources like petroleum based fuels are.

Produces Fewer Emissions

Biodiesel fuel is also better for the environment since it produces fewer carbon emissions than conventional diesel fuel. Because it is made from natural ingredients, biodiesel fuel is less dangerous to transport and handle than petroleum fuels. It also produces very little sulphur when burnt, thereby reducing the risk of acid rain.

Easy to Implement

Compared to certain alternative fuels like hydrogen fuel cells and natural gas, biodiesel fuel is attractive because it can be implemented very quickly. Standard diesel engines, like those used in many trucks and buses in the United States, and in all types of cars in Europe, can burn biodiesel fuel without any vehicle modification. This means that the engine technology has already been refined and tested. The only thing required is an established biodiesel fuel distribution network.

Less Energy

Compared to standard diesel fuel, biodiesel fuel has a lower energy content per volume. This means that a driver who switches to biodiesel fuel will see a significant loss of engine power, up to 11 per cent according to a recent assessment by Land of the Free (See References 1). To prevent the loss of power, fuel makers often blend biodiesel fuel with conventional diesel, which also dilutes its environmental advantages.

Causes Engine Problems

Biodiesel fuel is also known to cause problems with some conventional diesel engines. These include carbon deposits on fuel injectors, excessive wear on piston rings and clogged fuel filters. Biodiesel fuel can also reduce the viscosity of the engine's oil, thereby requiring more frequent oil changes to keep the engine properly lubricated.

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