Biodiesel sustainability program has new tools in arsenal

By NBB | September 08, 2011

The National Biodiesel Board Sustainability program works to build science and awareness to ensure that biodiesel production meets today’s needs for environmental stewardship, economic prosperity and quality of life. The industry is tasked with doing this without compromising future generations’ ability to meet these needs for themselves. 

NBB has recently added a few new tools to use in biodiesel sustainability awareness efforts.

In July, a new study from the University of Idaho and USDA showed an increase in biodiesel’s energy balance. The study found that for every unit of energy needed to produce biodiesel, the return is 5.54 units of renewable energy.

“This study shows the clear trend that biodiesel production continues to improve when it comes to efficient use of resources,” said Don Scott, director of sustainability for NBB. “No other fuel available in the U.S. comes close to such a high energy balance.”

The U.S. DOE and USDA completed two other comprehensive life-cycle assessments for U.S. biodiesel production. The first in 1998 found a 3.2-to-1 energy balance. It was updated in 2009 and improved to 4.56-to-1.

“In addition to improved energy efficiency at processing facilities, soybean growers have accomplished greater yields with lower inputs of water and fertilizer per bushel, even as cropland has declined,” said Jim Duffield, USDA senior agricultural economist, who co-authored all three life-cycle analysis studies. “Biodiesel deserves some credit for this progress—the demand it creates is helping to drive the new technologies that make American agriculture more efficient.”

Along with the new research data, the NBB sustainability program has added new avenues to get information out to the public. This fall, a Biodiesel Sustainability Blog was launched at This forum allows NBB director of sustainability Don Scott to distribute information to the online community. Studies such as the University of Idaho/USDA energy balance can be distributed online to a much broader audience and create an online dialogue on the sustainability of biodiesel.

The biodiesel sustainability blog will also be the online-home for the Next Generation Scientists for Biodiesel, another resource for NBB sustainability programs. The next generation of scientific thought leaders are gearing up to lead America’s energy efforts. Student scientists from all across the country have signed on to be a part of the initiative. The group has formed to demonstrate and grow support for biodiesel among tomorrow’s scientific leaders. To see the list of founding members and co-chairs, or to sign on to the declaration, visit the biodiesel sustainability blog. 

As biodiesel production continues to increase, it is extremely important that the industry grow in a sustainable, responsible manner. The NBB sustainability program continues to use science and awareness to ensure that happens.

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