Biofuels are fossil fuel substitutes. They can be made from a range of agricultural crops, usually oily crops for biodiesel and crops rich in sugars or starch for bioethanol. By-products and wastes like used cooking oil, tallow and municipal solid waste can also be used to produce biofuels. Blended into fossil fuels in small proportions, bioethanol and biodiesel can be safely used in today's road vehicles.

Biofuels and sustainability

Fuel types

Two types of biofuel, biodiesel and bioethanol, dominate the market in the UK. There are a number of other biofuel types available but these currently only occupy a small niche of the total market. The most common of these is biogas, produced from biodegrading material, typically sold for fleet use. Other biofuels include pure plant oil (PPO) and hydrogenated vegetable oil (HVO) as diesel substitutes and biobutanol as a petrol substitute. Industry expects these to be more widely used in the future, as more advanced biofuel technologies become commercially viable.


Biofuels have the potential to provide a renewable source of fuel while delivering a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. There is a risk, however, that unregulated production may cause social and environmental damage and lead to a net increase in carbon emissions. This is particularly true if the feedstocks used to produce the fuels are grown on land which previously held high carbon stocks such as forest or peatland. As well as this direct impact, there is also potential for indirect effects if competing land uses are displaced by biofuel production. UK biofuels policy to date has included mechanisms to encourage carbon reduction and greater levels of sustainability. The RTFO was the first instance in the world of monitoring and regulating the supply of biofuels.

Use and supply of biofuels

Blended in small quantities into fossil fuels, ethanol and biodiesel can be safely used in today's road vehicles. Biofuels used in the UK are sourced from many feedstocks originating from over 30 countries. In 2009/10 3.33% of the fuel used in road vehicles was biofuel.

Renewable Fuels Agency archive

From its implementation until April 2011 the Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation (RTFO) was administered by a Non-Departmental Public Body, the Renewable Fuels Agency (RFA). In April 2011 the RFA was dissolved and its duties transferred to the DfT.

Biofuels pages - list of contents: 

Acronyms and abbreviations

Table of acronyms and abbreviations.

Biofuel types

Biofuels and sustainability

Biofuels use and supply

Data on biofuel supply

Data relating to biofuels.

Biofuel legislation

Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation

Data relating to biofuels.

FAQs for suppliers

Carbon calculator

Biofuels carbon calculator.

20 March 2011
Last update:
21 April 2011


Data relating to biofuels.

Stakeholder Engagement

Data relating to biofuels.

For related documents, pages and internet links, see the column on the right.