The production of biodiesel by the esterification of oleic acid, as an example of free fatty acid (FFA), was explored by using a new solid acid catalyst derived from lignin, a highly abundant low-cost biomass material. The catalyst was synthesized from lignin-derived carbon fiber by straightforward sulfonation and contains 1.86 mmol/g of sulfonic acid (-SO3H) groups. The catalyst was characterized by a variety of techniques including PXRD, TGA, TPD-MS, SEM, and XPS to understand the surface chemistry and the result of sulfonation. It was found that the sulfonated lignin-derived carbon fiber (CF-SO3H) catalyst was very efficient at esterifying oleic acid at 80 oC in 4 hours, with 10 wt. % catalyst (in terms of oleic acid content) and at a 10:1 molar ratio of methanol: oleic acid with a yield of 92%. Furthermore, the catalyst can be reused with no significant loss in activity after 4 cycles. Hence, synthesizing solid acid catalysts from lignin-derived carbon fiber affords a novel strategy for producing biodiesel via ‘green chemistry’.