Fuel Smarts

Study Questions Carbon Footprint of Biodiesel

April 21, 2010

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A European Union document recently released to Reuters found that the greenhouse gas emissions generated by biodiesel can be up to four times greater than diesel or gasoline.
The study was not made public until Reuters used freedom of information rights.

According to reports by Reuters, the EU has found that burning forests to clear land results in carbon dioxide emissions that cancel out the benefits of biofuels.

The document says biodiesel made from soybeans can indirectly produce 339.9 kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions per gigajoule, Reuters reports. This is four times the amount of emissions of standard diesel, the report said.

While standard diesel or gasoline creates around 85 kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions, biodiesel from European rapeseed produces about 150.3 kilograms per gigajoule, according to the Reuters article.

A scientist involved with the research indicated that additional work needs to be done and that no final conclusions could be made on biofuel and its environmental impact, Reuters reports.

A National Biodiesel Board spokesperson said the European estimates were biased to European products, and did not follow proper lifecycle analysis for U.S. products.

"The EPA process to conclusively establish GHG emission from soy biodiesel is the largest effort in history to quantify the benefit of biodiesel in a comprehensive way," said NBB spokesperson Jessica Robinson. "This was also an open process with public stakeholder and expert involvement. It affirmed biodiesel's benefit over petroleum, including soy biodiesel."

Story updated 4/22/2010 at 9:45 a.m. EDT to add National Biodiesel Board's response.

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