May 23, 2024     

Study: Increasing Biodiesel Use Will Save 340 Lives and $3 Billion Per Year

An infographic outlines key takeaways from Trinity Consultants’ Biodiesel Health Benefits study.

On April 29, the National Biodiesel Board (NBB) released the results of a study from Trinity Consultants demonstrating the public health benefits of switching from diesel fuel and heating oil to biodiesel and Bioheat® fuel.

Trinity Consultants is a specialist in environmental health and science with over 40 years’ experience conducting air dispersion modeling and related health risk assessments. For this study, the group used a “bottom-up” model that zeroes in on certain neighborhoods and communities.

The study considered biodiesel use in Denver, Colorado; Everett and Seattle, Washington; Fresno, Long Beach, Oakland, and San Bernadino, California; and Portland, Oregon; and Bioheat® fuel use in Albany and The Bronx, New York; Boston, Massachusetts; New Haven, Connecticut; and Providence, Rhode Island.

Researchers examined community health benefits in terms of reduced cancer risk and burdens, avoided premature deaths, fewer lung problems, fewer restricted activity days and fewer lost workdays. The study also quantified these benefits in terms of reduced medical costs. Key annual benefits highlighted by the National Biodiesel Board included 340 fewer premature deaths, 46,000 fewer lost workdays, and over $3 billion in avoided health care costs.

"We have always known that biodiesel offers a better and cleaner alternative to petroleum diesel," said NBB CEO Donnell Rehagen. "This study quantifies the health benefits and shows that by using renewable fuels like biodiesel and renewable diesel, we are bringing positive change to people's lives, the nation's health and the economy."

NBB released the results of the study in tandem with a series of infographics illustrating the combined public health benefits as well as the specific benefits for each of the aforementioned communities. Having already utilized some of these materials in its advocacy efforts at the state level, the organization also sought an audience at the federal level. On May 4, NBB sent a letter to EPA Administrator Michael Regan, asking for the opportunity to present the new study.

"We appreciate Administrator Regan's commitment to ensuring that biofuels play a role in achieving the nation's carbon reduction goals," wrote NBB Vice President of Federal Affairs Kurt Kovarik. “While the Biden administration has not yet explicitly included biofuels in the American Jobs Plan or the Nationally Determined Contribution to the Paris Accord, we believe it should. We would like the opportunity to show Administrator Regan how biodiesel and renewable diesel can support EPA's goals to address climate change and environmental justice issues.”

Indeed, environmental justice was a particular focus of the study, as it looked specifically at communities that were most directly exposed to emissions and the associated health risks and burdens. Not coincidentally, these communities also stood to gain the most from biodiesel’s health benefits.

“The immediacy of these potential health benefits, especially for disadvantaged communities, is even more critical when one considers the years it will take for states to pursue deep electrification and other decarbonization strategies,” Rehagen said.

The automotive industry expects that it will take until at least 2030 for half of all new cars sold to be electric (and the federal government puts that target even further out). To cite just one example from the study, over that same period of time biodiesel could prevent 1,728 premature deaths in communities surrounding Long Beach and the Port of Los Angeles. Those communities would also save well over $15 billion in medical costs.