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Jan 10

Biofuels: Is it the Solution to our Energy Needs?

Global warming has long been our planet’s worst enemy. The harsh reality is, as we continue to live, our planet continues to die. Our dependency on fossil fuels and other non-renewable energy sources to support our power needs is costing us big time. The only way to confront this harsh reality is to face it with harsh solutions. No quick fix, no shortcuts…just long-term solutions. One such solution being thrown out there– biofuels.

Biofuels are fuels, in either solid, liquid, or gas, that are derived from biomass conversion. The energy source contained in combustible plant and/or animal material is the alternative energy source we need to lessen our dependence on fossil fuels. Here are a few reasons why biofuels should be considered as the next best alternative to fossil fuels today:

  • Widespread Sources
    • With so many plant and animal materials to choose from, manufacturing biofuels will be much easier than drilling into an already limited supply of fossil fuel.
  • Renewable Source
    • Fossil fuels take millions of years to form whereas the materials used in manufacturing biofuels are readily available as new crops are grown.
  • Economic Advantage
    • The production of biofuels will create an increase in demand for crops which will fuel the agriculture industry. This will, in turn, create more job opportunities for farmers and factory workers in the biofuel industry.
  • Environment Friendly
    • Biofuels are safer to handle than ordinary petroleum. Any spills made are less hazardous and much easier to clean up. Moreover, biofuels are also biodegradable.
  • Fuel Security
    • Most developing countries import oil from oil-producing countries thus, they developed heavy dependency on this type of relationship. However, these developing countries have the capability of growing their own crops for biofuels thus reducing their dependence on foreign fuel sources.
  • Reduced Carbon Emissions
    • The burning of biofuels produces significantly less carbon. This makes it a safer alternative for fuel since air pollution is minimized.

Like all breakthrough technologies, there are some concerns that need to be noted:

  • Carbon Emissions from Production
    • While the use of biofuels reduces carbon output, the machines used in the production process of biofuels still emit large volumes of carbon in the atmosphere.
  • High Initial Capital
    • Any technology that’s still being developed and refined will always entail great costs. The hefty investment for this endeavor is quite a risk to take.
  • Lower Energy Output
    • Biofuels produce lower energy output than fossil fuels do.
  • Higher Food Prices and Direct Competition with Food Supply
    • The demand for crops, such as corn, increases dramatically with biofuel production. As such, the supply of corn for food decreases which makes the price for this commodity soar.
  • Resource Hungry
    • Resources, such as water, are necessary to cultivate the crops and to manufacture biofuels.
  • Compatibility
    • The engines of some vehicles are incompatible with biofuels. These include the luxury cars, sports cars, and vintage cars.
  • Destruction of Natural Habitats
    • A sizable piece of land is required in biofuel production. This is a very controversial issue with environmentalists as the natural habitats of animals, such as rainforests, are turned into

Biofuels are made from a variety of materials such as wood, corn, sugarcane, and vegetable oils. With so many sources of biofuels, it follows that there are also various types as well. Two of these types of biofuels are biodiesel and bioethanol.

Biodiesel is produced from oils and fats such as rapeseed, vegetable oil, jathropa, palm oil, and hemp. The composition of the liquid fuel produced is similar to mineral diesel. This is the most common type of biofuel in Europe. Biodiesel produces less than 78% carbon dioxide compared to ordinary diesel however, it also emits a greater amount of nitrogen oxide.

Bioethanol, on the other hand, is produced from carbohydrate crops such as sugar beet, corn, potatoes, and other similar crops. E10 (10% ethanol, 90% petroleum) fuels are now being sold around the world. Greenhouse gases emissions are reduced by 3.9% worldwide. Bioethanols also burns cleaner than ordinary gasoline. There are still issues with regards to bioethanol production such as the large amounts of land and energy needed and the risk of causing corrosion to fuel system components that are incompatible with bioethanol.

The question still remains, are biofuels worth the time, energy, and effort? It is true that biofuels do reduce carbon emissions and is an alternative to fossil fuels however, the damage being done to the environment is something that cannot be taken lightly. Biofuel is still a work in progress. Alternatives such as biohydrogen, biomethanol, and algae fuels are being researched as we speak. Time will tell whether these change the way we live.

About the Author
Jessica is a blog editor at Meiji Electric, the premier electrical supplier in the Philippines. She is a hands-on, technology-oriented girl and loves to tinker with the latest gadgets and equipment. She loves to travel a lot and always brings traveling adapters with her to conveniently power her gadgets.

3 comments

  1. Anne Appliance Recycler

    I think that the things that you listed here are better options that just the plain old tree planting activities. Although, yes, these activities can still help, people should think of the wider scope of environmental wellness and start the change within the biggest source of carbon emissions.

  2. Vietri

    I am delighted today for the first time you have.A source of valuable information in an accessible form

  3. xolisile (@axedzembe)

    Wouldn’t trying to balance the two (fossil fuels and biofuels)minimize the risks?

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