Biofuels as Alternative Sources of Energy

Biofuels are produced by converting organic matter into fuel for powering our society. These biofuels are an alternative energy source to the fossil fuels that we currently depend upon. The biofuels umbrella includes under its aegis ethanol and derivatives of plants such as sugar cane, as well aS vegetable and corn oils. However, not all ethanol products are designed to be used as a kind of gasoline. The International Energy Agency (IEA) tells us that ethanol could comprise up to 10 percent of the world's usable gasoline by 2025, and up to 30 percent by 2050. Today, the percentage figure is two percent.

However, we have a long way to go to refine and make economic and practical these biofuels that we are researching. A study by Oregon State University proves this. We have yet to develop biofuels that are as energy efficient as gasoline made from petroleum. Energy efficiency is the measure of how much usable energy for our needed purposes is derived from a certain amount of input energy. (Nothing that mankind has ever used has derived more energy from output than from what the needed input was. What has always been important is the conversion—the end-product energy is what is useful for our needs, while the input energy is just the effort it takes to produce the end-product.) The OSU study found corn-derived ethanol to be only 20% energy efficient (gasoline made from petroleum is 75% energy efficient). Biodiesel fuel was recorded at 69% energy efficiency. However, the study did turn up one positive: cellulose-derived ethanol was charted at 85% efficiency, which is even higher than that of the fantastically efficient nuclear energy.

Recently, oil futures have been down on the New York Stock Exchange, as analysts from several different countries are predicting a surge in biofuel availability which would offset the value of oil, dropping crude oil prices on the international market to $40 per barrel or thereabouts. The Chicago Stock Exchange has a grain futures market which is starting to “steal” investment activity away from the oil futures in NY, as investors are definitely expecting better profitability to start coming from biofuels. Indeed, it is predicted by a consensus of analysts that biofuels shall be supplying seven percent of the entire world's transportation fuels by the year 2030. One certain energy markets analyst has said, growth in demand for diesel and gasoline may slow down dramatically, if the government subsidizes firms distributing biofuels and further pushes to promote the use of eco-friendly fuel.

There are several nations which are seriously involved in the development of biofuels.

There is Brazil, which happens to be the world's biggest producer of ethanols derived from sugars. It produces approximately three and a half billion gallons of ethanol per year.

The United States, while being the world's greatest oil-guzzler, is already the second largest producer of biofuels behind Brazil.

The European Union's biodiesel production capacity is now in excess of four million (British) tonnes. 80 percent of the EU's biodiesel fuels are derived from rapeseed oil; soybean oil and a marginal quantity of palm oil comprise the other 20 percent.

21 Responses to “Biofuels as Alternative Sources of Energy”

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  • Good points, Lazarus. Specious siuqteon and false dichotomy–would not surprise me.But those seem to be the talking points against use of biofuels, and the way the biofuels issue is often framed, that I all-too-often hear on the major media networks. Especially the one about them being too energy intensive to produce to be worth the while. And I certainly don’t feel comfortable with that based on the balance of information that I am familiar with. Your points about better integrating biofuels production with societal waste management systems are outstanding ideas (addressing multiple major challenges at once–waste management/landfill space/reduced toxic pollution from waste end products, and energy independence) that I’m absolutely going to pursue further. Good stuff!

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    • Ethanol from sugar cane is about 6 times more efficient to procdue than from corn.One thing that people seem to always overlook, too about biofuels, is that not just the efficiency is important, but also the health and lives that they save of people in the cities. Just look at the clean blue flame from alcohol compared to that of gasoline or Diesel.

      • Nicholas, can enough sugar cane be grown in the United States to be a vibale source of ethanol? It certainly makes more sense to trade corn for sugar in ethanol production, but if we’re dependent on imports to produce sugar-based ethanol, we’re not necessarily gaining much in the way of energy independence .

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    • Jeny:

      Wind energy motlsy replaces energy from coal-fired power plants. In reality wind will never fully supplant nonrenewable energy sources because it is not reliable (non-windy days). There must always be back-up sources that can be used on demand. The cleanest solution would be nuclear and natural gas nonrenewables along with geothermal, wind, and solar renewables.

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    • Mexican farmers are sntiteg ablaze fields of blue agave, the cactus-like plant used to make the fiery spirit tequila, and resowing the land with corn as soaring U.S. ethanol demand pushes up prices.They’re going to regret that once Algore figures out how to run his jet on Tequila.

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    • Yani:

      Bachelor of Science in Mechanical EngineeringMasters or Dr is even betterI am a retnlcey graduated engineer and am doing wind turbine research with cfd (computational fluid dynamics) software.The degree wont guarantee anything (the world doesn’t work like that). But it will give you an excellent understanding for all aspects of wind power. A BS in mechanical engineering is a well respected degree nationwide(renewable energy is currently not).I went to Boise State University, but any Abet accredited university will teach you well.Best of luck to you!

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    • Not to mention, sugar-cane based etnhoal processing is eight times as efficient as corn-based, and Brazil would be more than happy to ship us their etnhoal by the tankerful that is, if the *(#% idiots in congress hadn’t slapped a fifty-cent-a-gallon tarriff on it.Good going, guys. Blocking a renewable energy source from a friendly ally in the middle of a war on petrodollar-fueled terror. That makes tons of sense!

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