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What Is the Difference Between Biodiesel and Biofuel?

Biodiesel may present a green alternative to traditional diesel fuels.
Methanol can be used to make biofuels.
A large field of rapeseed, which is used to make biofuel.
Algae may be used for biofuel production.
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  • Written By: Lori Kilchermann
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 14 December 2014
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The difference between biodiesel and biofuel is that one is a fuel and the other is a category: biodiesel is one form of biofuel. Biofuels are fuels made from components other than petroleum products, such as alcohol, methanol, soy and myriad others; biodiesel is made from vegetable oils. This category includes many different fuels, from firewood to human and animal waste and landfill fumes.

With the cost of petroleum-based fuels climbing higher and higher and the collective world's conscious leaning towards a greener way of living, more and more people are talking about biodiesel and other biofuels. There is still a lot of confusion around these terms, however. While biodiesel is a relatively new concept, biofuel has been used by humans since the early cave-dwellers learned to cook food and heat their caves with an open fire. Biofuel can be best identified as a type of fuel made from a decaying biological material, such as wood or garbage, or animal and vegetable fat.

While biodiesel and biofuel may help some countries lower their dependency on oil, products such as E-85 gasoline are not biofuels. This product contains 15% petroleum gasoline in addition to the ethanol-based fuel, which keeps it out of that category. In a matter of speaking, fossil fuels are technically biofuels because they are made from plants and animals that died and decomposed over millions of years. The key difference is that biofuels are renewable, where fossil fuels are not.

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In most cases, biofuels produce more energy than is required to make them. This makes them an excellent source of renewable energy that can be produced entirely within a single country from crops and animals that are raised by local farmers. From an ecological viewpoint, biodiesel and other biofuels release an average of 70% less carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere when burned as compared to diesel fuel.

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