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Soybeans

Most biodiesel and some ethanol (seen here) in the United States comes from soybean oil.

iStockphoto/Thinkstock

Whether it is tofu or tacos, crayons or shampoos, candles or pens, products made from soybeans line store shelves. Now the ubiquitous soybean can add green energy to its resume. In fact, most of the biodiesel in use in the United States comes from soybean oil. Motor vehicles, especially heavy equipment and buses, can run on pure soybean biodiesel, or a blend of biodiesel and diesel. According to the National Academy of Sciences, soybean biodiesel is more environmentally sound and yields more energy than corn ethanol [source: Barrioneuvo]. Researchers studied the amount of energy needed for growing corn and soybeans along with the amount of energy to convert those crops into biofuels and found that soybeans use less fertilizers and pesticides, and released less pollutants, including greenhouse gases, into the environment [source: Mongabay].

Plus, one bushel of soybeans yields 1.5 gallons (5.68 liters) of biodiesel. In addition, the amount of land devoted to soybean production is much greater than the amount of acreage devoted to other oilseed crops, which leads to greater biodiesel production. However, the oil content of soybeans (20 percent) is lower than the oil content of canola (40 percent) and sunflower seeds (43 percent) [source: University of Connecticut].

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