Will Biofuels Save the Planet

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Biofuels are a recent development, which has seen significant attention recently due to humanity's ever-dwindling supply of natural resources or more specifically our over-dependence on fossil fuels.

This has stemmed a great deal of scientific research into the issue of alternative energy and bio fuels have been seen as a potentially environmentally and affordable way for us to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels.

Biofuels is really an umbrella term and it can mean almost anything, from hydroelectric power, which is generated from waves to wind, solar and other forms of generating energy. However, for the most part the term biofuels is used to refer to that of alternative substitutes for petrol, diesel or aircraft fuel.

Up until recently, car manufacturers were highly reluctant to invest significantly in bio fuels research for mainstream vehicles. This was because biofuels are to some extent an unproven technology – we know it works; just there is little research on the overall benefits of biofuels not only to consumers, but also to the planet.
This has meant that until further research has been completed, many industries are reluctant to join in to develop biofuels into a sustainable and realistic form of energy.

Many people argue that the reason car manufacturers have started to adopt biofuels as a technology is mainly because of pressure from the world governments due to the environmental impact that fossil fuels are having on the planet.

Speaking from an environmental perspective, the rate of consumption for fossil fuels has risen exponentially in the past twenty years and as a result, we are now faced with the reality that fossil fuels such as petrol and diesel will run out within the next hundred years.

Bio fuels are a viable alternative to fossil fuels. Many varieties exist and they vary significantly. Some examples are that of biodiesel, which entails growing crops that contain high amounts of natural oil then through a process of hydrogenation or refining a more compatible bio diesel, substitute is created. This creates a biodiesel, which can be mixed with mineral diesel then used in any diesel-powered automobile.
There is a similar process that takes place creating bio-petrol by fermenting crops such as sugar cane. This creates a natural ethanol, which can also be mixed with petrol to create a sort of hybrid biofuel that can be used in any petrol powered vehicle.

However, problems exist due to the properties of ethanol as it is more corrosive than petrol and as a result, it cannot be used in many aircraft or boats.

These are examples of first generation biofuels and due to their nature they may or may not be long-term economically or environmentally viable. Arguments exist that both support the continued use of biofuels and prove they are not the miracle fuel we are waiting for.

The truth is that bio fuels technology is still young. In the next twenty years, we look set to see biofuel research expand exponentially as we get close to the day when fossil fuels are exhausted.

Until that time comes, we will always have a reliance on fossil fuels and we can only hope that biofuels as analternative is a reality within the next twenty years.


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