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Biofuels

Consumer Fact Sheet 

What are Biofuels?  Biofuels are fuel compounds made from biological sources such as corn, grasses, seed oils or animal byproducts. Biofuels are being increasingly used as alternatives to or blended with traditional fuels.  Biofuels are renewable and may provide advantages such as potentially reducing emissions. 

What is different? Biofuels can be used safely, but are chemically different than traditional fuels.  These differences may cause incompatibilities of some equipment with certain biofuels.  In some cases biofuels may be more corrosive and can cause leaks or other damage.  Biofuels can burn differently and may require special supervision or equipment in some applications.  Consumers need to be able to identify biofuels and understand what is different about them in order to obtain the most benefit from biofuels and use them safely.

Examples of biofuels available to consumers

  • High percentage ethanol/gasoline blends such as E85 - these blends are made of fuel ethanol blended with gasoline. The number indicates the percent of ethanol. E85 is the most available blend, but in some locations blends such as E40 or E60 may be offered. These fuels are permitted only for use with flexible fuel vehicles. (Note: the 10% ethanol/gasoline blend known as "gasohol" generally does not require special action by consumers).
  • Biodiesel blends such as B5 or B20 - Made of biodiesel produced from plant or animal matter, blended with traditional fuel such as heating oil or diesel. The number indicates the percent of biodiesel. May be offered for home heating applications when mixed with heating oil, and compression-ignition (diesel) engines when mixed with diesel fuel.

What should consumers do?

Be able to recognize biofuels
Identify the fuels that can be used for their equipment
Only use permitted fuels in safe ways

In the past, most consumer fuel choices were based only on price or performance (such as premium grade).  Biofuels offer different types of choices to consumers.  Biofuels are safe when selected and used in the right applications.  However, using an incompatible biofuel can cause performance problems or safety problems such as leaks.   These problems may occur immediately or may not be noted for some time.  Improper use also may violate Federal laws.

Instruction manuals for equipment and vehicles generally provide guidance on what biofuels, if any, can be safely used.  If you are not sure that the equipment is compatible, do not use the biofuel. Checking with the manufacturer of the equipment is always a good idea if you are unsure of biofuel use.