Biodiesel constitutes an easily handled fuel with a high energy density, comparable with that of mineral oil and substantially higher than natural gas or hydrogen. Biodiesel can already be employed in a thermal engine such as a diesel engine economically and highly efficiently for mobile applications. Biodiesel, which is sold at over 1,700 filling stations in Germany and Austria, is therefore a genuine alternative to conventional diesel. However, a complete substitution is impossible. It is estimated that five to seven percent of the diesel fuel consumption could be replaced by biodiesel production with indigenous raw materials. 10 percent is conceivable within the European Union. The biogenic fuel biodiesel is therefore now at the peak of all alternative fuels and, together with other concepts such as hydrogen engines and fuel cell technology, biodiesel will assume a supporting role in the mobility of the future, when the mineral oil wells have run dry.
The restriction of the potential quantities results from the requirement of crop rotation of the rapeseed plant. It can only be cultivated economically and within ecological reason every third or fourth year. In contrast with grain or maize, rapeseed is not selfsustaining and monocultures are therefore impossible.
Taking account of these requirements, a maximum potential cultivation of approx. 1 million hectares is ecologically achievable in Germany. Increases in the yield of oilseed cultivation and the reduction of the consumption of vehicle fleets is not taken into account in the estimated potentials. With the East European countries entering the EU, the potential area and thereby raw materials in the European Union will increase very significantly. Also, other vegetable oils can be transformed into biodiesel.
In view of the overproduction of agricultural products prevalent in our region, the cultivation of so-called regenerative raw materials for exclusive use in technology and for their energy opens a reasonable alternative to traditional food production for the agricultural industry. Instead of turning agricultural areas into fallow land due to overproduction, they can be used to produce energy. The cultivation of plants for their energy will then not compete with food production, an apprehension often expressed in connection with the discussion of raw materials. These areas will be available at any time according to the demand for food production - in contrast to permanent fallow.