Iowa Biodiesel Board

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Biodiesel is the name of a cleaner burning renewable fuel for diesel engines.  It is produced from domestic, agricultural co-products such as soybean oil or other fats and vegetable oils.  Biodiesel contains no petroleum, but it can be blended at any level with petroleum diesel.  Blends up to 20 percent (B20) can be used in diesel engines with no modifications.  Higher blends are also possible, all the way up to B100 in some cases.  Fuel must meet the national standard ASTM D-6751 to be called biodiesel.


Biodiesel has an energy content (BTUs) similar to that of No. 1 of diesel.  Biodiesel offers:

  • significantly improved lubricity, which can reduce premature engine wear and tear
  • higher average cetane than diesel
  • similar fuel economy, horsepower, and torque

Biodiesel is the only alternative fuel that allows an immediate and seamless transition of a diesel fleet to a cleaner-burning fuel.

Energy Balance

Biodiesel has an extremely high energy balance, according to a 2011 study performed by USDA and the University of Idaho.  The study found for every one unit of fossil energy needed to produce biodiesel, 5.5 units of energy are gained.


Biodiesel reduces most regulated emissions compared to diesel, in conventional diesel engines.  An EPA technical report of biodiesel emissions data shows:

  • a 47 percent reduction in particulate matter, a known health hazard
  • a 67 percent reduction in unburned hydrocarbons
  • a 48 percent reduction in carbon monoxide

Also, a DOE/USDA life cycle analysis shows biodiesel reduces lifecycle carbon dioxide by 78 percent compared to diesel.   This makes it one of the best carbon/greenhouse gas mitigation strategies available in the transportation market.  Biodiesel is ten times less toxic than table salt and biodegrades as fast as sugar.


Biodiesel is the only alternative fuel to have completed the rigorous Health Effects testing required by the Clean Air Act.  Results show biodiesel poses significantly less risk to human health than petroleum diesel.  Biodiesel emissions also reduce by 80 to 90 percent potential cancer-causing compounds.

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