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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Biodiesel Science for Kids

Animated icon of a gas pump filling a containerFill 'Er Up......
With Soybeans and Corn Please


Animation of old-fashioned gas pump.Photo of scientist inspecting bio-based fuel.I’m sure you’ve heard someone complain about rising gas prices. Well, someday they might not have to worry so much about it. Agricultural Research Service scientists are studying other fuel sources that could eventually replace petroleum fuel.

At ARS' Beltsville Agricultural Research Center in Beltsville, Maryland, scientists are Animation of blue tractor with spinning wheels.testing to see if government vehicles can be switched to fuel made from soybeans, corn, animal fats, waste greases--like used frying oil--or other crops. Animation of piggy bank with coins falling into top.

It’s part of an effort to cut back on petroleum products--and to create more uses for U.S. crops. If the project works, more Animation of spinning dime.soybeans or corn will be needed to make crop-based fuel. That could be good for U.S. farmers...the more corn and soybeans people need, the more the farmer can sell, the more money the farmer can make.

Another good thing about crop-based fuel is that it burns cleaner and is less sooty--soot is that black smoke that comes fromAnimated car with funny face. cars and trucks. Crop-based fuels may help engines run cleaner, decreasing vehicle repairs.

The Beltsville center is ARS’ largest research facility. A total of 140 tractors, trucks, a tour bus, and other Hot-linked animation of front-end loader. Link is for list of farm equipment.vehicles, including snowplows, are gassed up with “B20," a mix of 20 percent modified soybean oil and 80 percent regular diesel fuel. [Click front-end loader for the list of ARS farm equipment using biodiesel fuel.]


Photo of ARS National Visitor Center Bus that runs on biofuel from soybeans. If you ever want to take a ride in a car or bus powered by soybeans, you can. The ARS National Visitor Center bus, which is used for Beltsville farm tours, is running on biodiesel fuel. It was the first ARS vehicle to fill-up on soybean-based fuel.

Graphic of chemistry flask filled with blue liquid.ARS scientists are conducting biodiesel fuel research at the Eastern Regional Research Center in Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania, and the National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research in Peoria, Illinois. They are trying to find ways to make fuel and other products from vegetable oils, animal fats, greases, and used restaurant oils.

Are there disadvantages to using biofuels?

Biodiesel fuel costs more than regular diesel fuel. But, the price may drop if people use it more.-- By Tara Weaver-Missick, Agricultural Research Service, and Don Comis,ARS Information Staff.


Graphic of blue jeep on bumpy road.


Check back in the coming months for more stories on products made from crops.

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Last Modified: 2/14/2011
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