Momentum has been growing for biodiesel as a way to diversify transportation’s energy use and reduce emissions. The renewable fuel, which is made from agricultural byproducts and co-products such as soybean oil, is also a boon for American farmers and many Midwestern states. As an example, the nation’s leading biodiesel state – Iowa – has 13 biodiesel plants and produced some 175 million gallons of biodiesel last year alone.

While automakers have historically been hesitant to warranty their engines for anything other than low blends like B5 – a mix of 5 percent biodiesel and 95 percent conventional diesel – that’s been changing. More than 65 percent of diesel engine and vehicle manufacturers selling equipment in the U.S. now publicly support the use of higher B20 biodiesel blends.

Still, the transition does not come without effort. The latest move: In a formal letter to every major diesel engine and vehicle manufacturer, the Midwestern Governors Association is seeking support for the use of biodiesel blends of at least 20 percent in all diesel-powered equipment. 

One of the challenges has been that not all advanced clean diesel engines are fully compatible with higher blends of biodiesel. Biodiesel interests like the MGA say that as biodiesel use grows in the marketplace, there are significant advantages to ensuring all diesel vehicles are compatible with higher blends.

There’s a lot at stake. The federal Renewable Fuels Standard-2 requires the use of higher levels of advanced biofuels over the next decade, and this could potentially grow the market for biodiesel as high as 5 billion gallons annually. Numbers like that are important in reducing reliance and imported oil…so let’s hope the manufacturers are listening.