On January 22, 2018, the National Biodiesel Board (NBB) announced that a new study on lifecycle energy and greenhouse gas (GHG) emission effects of biodiesel updates and reaffirms the benefits of using the renewable fuel. The report was published jointly by ANL, Purdue University, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Researchers gathered data on the energy and emissions from farming soybeans, the feedstock for approximately half of U.S. biodiesel. Among the data collected was the largest survey of biodiesel production facilities to date to determine the amount of energy used to convert fats, oils, and grease into biodiesel. The data was analyzed using ANL’s flagship Greenhouse Gases, Regulated Emissions, and Energy Use in Transportation (GREET®) LCA model and predicted economic impacts. The results demonstrate that biodiesel reduces GHG emissions by a range of 66 to 72 percent, compared to petroleum diesel. Jim Duffield, former USDA Agricultural Economist, stated that “[the report shows] the highest GHG reduction of any heavy-duty transportation fuel and reflects biodiesel’s natural ability to store solar energy in a liquid form compatible with today’s engines and power generation technologies.”
The study also models the indirect land use change (ILUC) to quantify the future impact of such predicted change in land use. According to Farzad Taheripour, one of the Purdue University authors, “[d]ata available today shows that farmers all around the world are increasing productivity on existing farm land. Calibrating the model to these real-world trends improves the accuracy and reduces the predicted emissions of biofuel expansion.” The improved model demonstrates a 30 percent reduction in ILUC emissions compared to the score adopted by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) in 2015.