Pros & Cons
What are biofuels?
Bioethanol & Biodiesel
Bioethanol is an alcohol made by fermenting the sugar components of plant materials such as wheat, corn, sugar beets, sugar cane, molasses and any sugar or starch that alcoholic beverages can be made from such as potatoes and fruit waste. It is made mostly from sugar and starch crops, but also from trees and other biomass.
- Ethanol, Methanol, Butanol, Propanol are all bioethanols
Ethanol is used as a fuel additive mixture of up to 10% mixed with gasoline. Lake Fork and Jim's Grocery have signs that advertise they have non-ethanol gas. If you ever filled up your snowmobile, dirt bike, RZR or 4-wheelers you probably got the gas from one of these two places. Ethanol can make small engines run dangerously hot and melt rubber pieces causing them to become brittle and break, thus the engine corroding away.
Ethanol is also used as the main ingredient in these products:
Biodiesel is made from vegetable oils, animal fats or recycled greases. Biodiesel can be used as a fuel for vehicles in its pure form, but it is usually used as a diesel additive to reduce levels of particulates, carbon monoxide, and hydrocarbons from dieselpowered vehicles. Biodiesel is produced from oils or fats using transesterification.
To create biodiesel, refineries use the oil already found in crops such as soybeans. These vegetable oils are treated with alcohol and turned into biodiesel.
Top 10 Biodiesel Crops
- Palm Oil
- Reduces our dependency on unstable sources of foreign oil
- Burns cleaner than fossil fuels
- Does not contribute to global warming (releases fewer pollutants and greenhouse gases into the atmosphere)
- It consumes materials that would have been considered as garbage, thereby helping the environment tremendously.
- Can be easy for transition (car or home)
- The more that fossil fuel prices rise, the more that biofuels will become cheaper.
- Biofuels could be made using materials that are found locally. Areas where there is an abundance of crops could become a viable source of biofuel.
- Biofuels help in giving a good performance to car engines compared to fossil fuels
- Must compete with food crops for land
- Requires a large amount of land to grow crops for fuel, not food
- Drive food prices up
- Biofuels account for 30% of the rise in grain prices and the World Bank president's figure of 100 million more hungry people due to higher food prices. This combination suggests that biofuels are responsible for 30 million more people going hungry in the world. --> Ultimately, the choice is between using 450 pounds of corn for food and filling a 25-gallon tank of an SUV with pure ethanol.
- However, increased biofuels production is but one of many contributing factors to increased food prices.
- Not all biofuels are compatible with existing cars, especially with older models. There are times that car engines need to be modified just to adapt to biofuels.
- Does Producing Biofuels Use More Energy than They Can Generate?
“There is just no energy benefit to using plant biomass for liquid fuel,” Pimentel says.