The Good, The Bad, And The Biodiesel

Biodiesel is not a simple issue, and there are many cons and pros

Published: 19-Mar-2005

There has been a fair bit of scuttlebutt in Vermont the last few months about biodiesel. Michael Feiner, writing in Rural Vermont's Farm Policy Network Newsletter takes aim at the "big business" side of biodiesel and calls it "agribusiness' new Trojan Horse." Biodiesel is not a simple issue, and there are many cons and pros.

On the con side, Feiner correctly points out that (most) biodiesel is not a renewable resource. This is true because: 1) the agricultural methods used to grow biodiesel crops are far from sustainable, 2) growing and processing the crops is heavily dependent on petroleum, and 3) other ingredients used to produce biodiesel are petroleum intensive.

What's the soy link? In the United States, much of the push for biodiesel has come from the soybean industry. This is unfortunate for a number of reasons. For example, most soybeans are now genetically engineered, mainly to make them resistant to (and the farmer dependent on) the heavy use of chemical herbicides and pesticides -- petroleum-based products with serious costs to human health and the environment. In addition, soybeans yield less oil per acre than a number of other crops, such as canola and sunflower.

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