Biofuel

Biofuels

In the fast-growing industry of green fuels; biofuel, biodiesel and bio fuels are gaining in popularity. Discover Simple Living explains what they are and how they're made.

Green Fuels

The definition of green fuels is hotly debated. There are many issues to consider when deciding if a fuel is "green" or not. There's the obvious, such as how much waste it produces when you use it, but there are other "hidden" attributes to consider.  What is the environmental impact of the production of the green fuel?  What are the methods of producing the fuel? Are we diverting resources which could be better used in other ways?

Bio Fuel

Bio fuel is made not by fossil fuels, but by the results of a chemical reaction.

A great example to explain this process is photosynthesis. During photosynthesis, plants trap the sun's light energy into a chemical energy. Plants use carbon dioxide and water to fuel the production of chlorophyll and release oxygen as waste.

Similarly, a bio fuel uses the results of a chemical reaction (such as alcohol) to fuel vehicles.

Examples of biofuels include bioethanol and biodiesel.

Biodiesel

Biodiesel


Biodiesel is made by reacting animal fats or vegetable oil with alcohol, which produces fatty acid esters used as fuel. Biodiesel can be run in conventional diesel engines.

The EPA's Renewable Fuel Standards Program Regulatory Impact Analysis, released in February 2010, suggests biodiesel made from soy oil can reduce greenhouse gases by an average of 57% when compared to traditional petroleum diesel. The same study states that biodiesel produced from waste grease results in an 86% reduction when compared to traditional petroleum diesel. So is biodiesel the new super green fuel?

The concerns with biodiesel are:

  • What land is being used to grow the crops needed and is deforestation being escalated in order to provide farming land for these fuels?
  • Is using crops such as corn and sugar cane to make fuel contributing to world hunger?
  • If fewer farmers are producing food for food, will the cost of food rise?
  • Is the act of raising the crops contributing more to greenhouse gasses than the fuel reduces?


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