A new study shows that the ultimate form of solar power could be biodiesel.
Researchers at the University of Idaho and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have released a study that shows that for every unit of fossil energy needed to produce biodiesel, the return is 4.5 units of energy. And the National Biodiesel Board points out that soybean-based biodiesel has a high ratio of energy-in to energy-out… a high “energy balance”…. because the main source of energy to grow soybeans is the sun:
“This gives Americans even more reason to put their faith in the environmental and societal benefits of biodiesel,” said Joe Jobe, CEO of the National Biodiesel Board. “The Environmental Protection Agency should take this into account when considering biodiesel’s greenhouse gas reductions,” he said.
Jobe was referring to EPA’s proposed rule to implement the expanded Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS2). EPA used 2005 baseline numbers for petroleum and biodiesel to project carbon impact 22 years in the future. That stacks the deck in favor of petroleum.
“In its rulemaking, EPA should recognize that biodiesel production is growing more efficient, while oil exploration and drilling becomes more intensive each day,” Jobe said.
Biodiesel is also a source of valuable co-products, like glycerin, for which EPA did not credit biodiesel. The USDA/Idaho study finds key drivers that continue to make biodiesel an efficient fuel choice:
* New seed varieties and management practices are upping soybean yields.
* Farmers have minimized cultivation of the soil. These reduced tillage practices have cut how much fuel they need to grow soybeans.
* Modern soybean varieties have reduced the need for pesticides.
* Today’s soybean processing and biodiesel plants are more energy efficient.
The study goes on to say that farmers, soybean processors and biodiesel producers are getting better at using renewable energy resources, as well as more efficient energy practices.