Biofuel is fuel derived from organic matter in a short period of time, and differs from fossil fuels which need thousands or millions of years to be created.
There are 2 main sorts of biofuel, bio-ethanol and biodiesel. Bio-ethanol is widely used in USA and Brazil and is mostly used as an gasoline additive. Normal cars can use 10-15% of bio-ethanol in their gasoline, without needing an adjustment. Driving on pure bio-ethanol is only possible, when adjustments to the car have been made. Bio-diesel is the most common biofuel in Europe, and can be used as a diesel additive
Their are still debates in what the advantages and disadvantages of these biofuels offer.
- Cost: The potential to cost less than fossil fuels (Will increase in importance as price for fossil fuels will rise when the amount available lowers).
- Lower carbon emissions: When biofuels are being burned, they produce less carbon output and fewer toxins.
- Renewability and availability: Unlike fossil fuels, biofuels won’t take long to be able ‘harvest’. And are renewable due to their short time needed to grow.
- Economic stimulation and security: Where fossil fuels often travel thousands of miles, biofuels can be gathered locally offering jobs for hundreds and thousands of people.
- Lower output: Biofuels offer a lower energy output than fossil fuels, therefor need a larger amount for the same energy.
- Production Carbon Emissions: Where the burning of biofuels create less carbon output and toxins the production is a different thing. Due to nitrate fertilizers and machinery necessary to cultivate the plants several studies have shown that they sometimes create equally or even more greenhouse gasses than the fossil fuels.
- Food prices and shortages (Mostly for bio-ethanol): Food prices may rise and shortages accur due to the growing demand for biofuels.
- Water use: Massive quantities of water are used for the cultivation of these plants.
Looking at these advantages and disadvantages I’m not yet entirely convinced. It has a promising future and needs a lot of adjusments to create a revolition in the energy sector. In the european union there are a lot of countries that import biomass to create biodiesel, which brings along pollution etc. In low population density it has a lot of potential as there is a lot of land that can be used and can be locally harvested.
As a reaction to jef’s response on a previous article :
After researching these (dis-)advantages I think the USA and brazil certainly have to continue researching biofuels, but I now see why these biofuels aren’t added to the renewable sector in the charts. They are renewable, but not that environmentally friendly. I think it will have a big impact in the future but only if they find better ways to produce them.
Sources: http://greenliving.lovetoknow.com/ , http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biofuel