Biodiesel – A Bright Future Ahead

Every day, Wisconsin farmers try to extract as much value from the products that we produce. Our goal is to produce the highest quality product that we can while also leaving the smallest environmental footprint possible. As soybean farmers, we know that biodiesel is available in the market but, many give little thought to the value it brings to our farms, along with the environmental benefits that come along with its use.  


In 2019 the biodiesel industry marketed around 2.7 billion gallons of biodiesel across the United States. 8.5 million pounds of soybean oil was utilized in the production of the 2019 biodiesel volume. The consumption of 35% of the soybean oil produced equated to a 13% increase in the cash valuation of soybeans, according to an International FCStone study and the benefits don’t end there. The EPA has recognized biodiesel as an Advanced Biofuel considering its ability to reduce lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 50 percent. Biodiesel must be manufactured from feedstocks meeting the definition of renewable biomass. We can proudly say that additional land is not cleared to produce the soybean oil used in biodiesel production because it is the coproduct of the soybean crushing process being used to make livestock feed.


Currently, the large markets for biodiesel lie along the coasts of the United States. On the east coast, biodiesel is blended with conventional heating oil and is marketed as “Bioheat.” The Northeastern heating oil market represents 80% of the National heating oil market. Last winter, over 400 million gallons of biodiesel were sold into the east coast heating market. Suppliers, homeowners, and municipalities have recognized that with the addition of biodiesel to their heating fuel they can reduce their carbon emissions. 


Boston Massachusetts is heating its municipal buildings with B20 Bioheat (20% biodiesel blend) which reduces the city of Boston’s carbon dioxide equivalent building emissions by 322,560 pounds. This is the equivalent greenhouse gas emissions of 357,728 passenger vehicle miles.


On the other side of the U.S., low carbon fuel standards are driving biodiesel demand. Oregon and other west coast states are following California’s lead in adopting fuel standards which will emit less greenhouse gas. California alone will use an estimated 600 million gallons of biodiesel in 2020. By 2023 it is estimated that 2 billion gallons of biodiesel will be sold in California. In the heart of the Midwest, Madison Wisconsin is using a 20% blend of biodiesel from April through September and a 5% blend the remainder of the year in its city fleet of ambulances, fire trucks, garbage/recycling, and snowplows. Madison’s desire to lower carbon emissions is the driving force behind the use of biodiesel, a renewable fuel.


Moving forward, the National Biodiesel Board (NBB), which the Wisconsin Soybean Marketing Board (WSMB) is a supporting member of, has set its “Vision 20/20 For the Future” this past January. The vision states “Biodiesel, renewable diesel, and renewable jet fuel will be recognized as mainstream low-carbon fuel options with superior performance and emission characteristics. In on-road, off-road, air transportation, electricity generation, and home heating applications, use will exceed six billion gallons by 2030, eliminating over 35 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent greenhouse gas emissions annually. With advancements in the feedstock, use will reach 15 billion gallons by 2050.”  As you can see, it is a lofty but achievable goal. Many consumers outside of agriculture have seen the value of a product we have a hand in creating.