has become popular throughout the world as a like-for-like alternative to petroleum and diesel. Since it is made from organic fats and oils – usually waste oils, animal fats, or restaurant grease – it is relatively clean and non-toxic. It is often touted as the ‘clean’ alternative to using petroleum, as it produces less greenhouse gases and other toxic pollutants. Since biodiesel can be produced locally and used in diesel engines with little or no modifications, it has helped some countries reduce their dependence on foreign fuel imports¹.
Advantages of Biodiesel
It is Renewable – Since it is produced from organic materials – plants and animals – instead of from fossil fuels, biodiesel is much more renewable than its petroleum based counterparts. This means that it could potentially become a longer term replacement for fossil fuels if a viable alternative isn’t found².
Its Manufacture is an Effective Recycling Method – Not only are biofuels produced from renewable, organic materials, but they can also be made from a huge range of these materials. They can be manufactured using anything from crop waste to feedlot manure, and are even an effective way of recycling used restaurant and cafe oils³.
Economic Stimulation – Biofuel production can provide hundreds or even thousands of jobs in rural or remote areas. Since biofuels are produced locally, it is the local community who benefits, as opposed to fossil fuels which are usually produced offshore or in foreign countries by multinational corporations³.
They Burn Cleanly – One of the major characterising factors which separate biodiesels from fossil fuels is the way in which they burn. They produce less carbon emissions than traditional fuels, which makes them cleaner and more environmentally friendly. They also produce no sulfur (as long as a 100% biodiesel is used), which improves air quality and actually increases the lifespan of diesel engines³.
Disadvantages of Biodiesel
Biofuel Crops Compete With Food Crops – Since biofuels are produced from organic products, often corn or soybeans, they can compete with food production. This can lead to increased food prices, and even food shortages in poorer areas of the world. To fully harness the potential of biofuels, we need to be able to grow crops for food, and use the waste products for biofuel production⁴.
Deforestation – One of the best biofuel sources in the world is palm oil. Yes, the nasty, environmentally destructive, palm oil. When the demand for biofuels began to increase at the end of the 90’s, people began to realise that palm oil was a great material to use to produce biofuels. However, they didn’t consider the environmental issues and drawbacks of producing palm oil in Indonesia and shipping it to Europe. Not only were forest cleared and burnt to make way for palm oil plantations, but a huge amount of fossil fuels was burnt in doing so – defeating the entire purpose of using biodiesels⁴.
They Can’t Be Used in Cold Areas – This is one of the major drawbacks of biofuel use. If it gets too cold, then the fuel will begin to solidify inside the fuel tank and engine, meaning you won’t be able to drive anywhere until it warms up. The temperature of congelation will depend on the product that the biodiesel is made from, but can actually be relatively high. However, it can still be used in winter if you mix it with some sort of winterised diesel, which will help it remain a liquid¹.
Increased Nitrogen Oxide Emissions – While biodiesels are cleaner than fossil fuels on average, they do tend to produce slightly more nitrogen oxide (about 10% more). This causes increased pollution around big cities and fuel use centers, and contributes to the formation of smog and acid rain¹.