Biofuels. What a great name! It just sounds green. Browsing you can see an expansion of Biodiesel bumper stickers everywhere I look.
Biofuels vs fossil fuels
Where bio-fuels can be made very quickly, fossil fuels take millions of years to be made. The pollution from fossil fuels is far more severe. Although burning bio-fuels also create emissions, carbon dioxide is more environmentally friendly and absorbed easily by crops and organisms. Fossil fuels are non-renewable, whereas biofuels tend to be more renewable. As long as there is human excrement, there will be bio-fuels. Furthermore, with the help of crop rotation, there can be an endless supply of biofuels.
This leads us on to the advantages of biofuels:
Advantages of biofuels
As more people use bio-fuels, it lowers the demand for pollution creating fossil-fuels. This helps reduce harmful carbon emissions, making bio-fuels more friendly for the environment. And since they can be made from almost any organic substance, bio-fuels are a cheap alternative for consumers.
Bio-fuels sound too good to be true. There must be some disadvantages to producing and using them. So, are there any?
Like any new technology, of course, there are disadvantages
Although they are environmentally friendly, bio-fuels have been ironically criticized by the environmental community, for the reasons given below:
It has long been debated on the usefulness of first-generation biofuels as compared to the shortage of food they could cause. Producing biofuels from crops makes the food worthless for us to eat. And some people believe that we should rather use those crops to cure world hunger than to power our vehicles and homes. The large farmlands necessary to produce first and third-generation biofuels can result in us encroaching on the natural ecology of plants and animals.
So you can see, biofuels are still a contentious issue. However, we believe that with the correct management – such as crop rotation – and improved technology biofuels can be a sustainable solution that will do more good than harm. But only time will tell.
Environmentalists are cheering as politicians and the media are leaping onto the Biofuel bandwagon. It seems like a big win for the environment and society– think again, in reality, Biofuels are a lot browner than they are green.
Disadvantages of biofuels
- Biofuels are so lucrative that tropical rain forest, the most effective absorber of greenhouse gases, is being cut or burned to grow grains and sugarcane to make ethanol or Biodiesel.
- Farmers growing extremely rewarding Biofuel crops are looking for the fastest growing and most significant yields and use heavy quantities of chemical fertilizer; which strips crucial micronutrients out of our significantly scarce topsoil, and the nitrogen-rich overflow causes enormous algae growth that damages our streams, rivers, and lakes.
- Due to the fact that Biofuels are more profitable than food crops large quantities of prime farmland are being committed to Biofuel production producing grain shortages and increasing the price of grain products, particularly in third world countries.
- Although Biofuels give off fewer greenhouse gases per gallon than petroleum fuels they still release significant quantities. Biofuels are also less fuel-efficient. In my car mileage drops significantly when I use a fuel containing ethanol. So, total Biofuels do not lower greenhouse emissions almost as much as a claim.
- This is possibly the most crucial reason. To completely fix both the energy crisis and remove greenhouse gas emissions we will have to move far from consumable fuels toward energy sources that do not take in fuel, discharge heat or produce contaminants. At the minute electrical energy is the cleanest energy source readily available and business are starting to develop and produce powerful electric automobiles that can go a few hundred miles on a charge. For these cars to be useful we will need to establish charging stations in every town and together with every highway. This needs a huge shift from filling stations to charging stations. The use of Biofuels will perpetuate the existing infrastructure of filling stations and delay the transition to charging stations. The longer we postpone this transition the more greenhouse gases will be launched into our environment.
Politics of biofuels
At this moment a few of you may be questioning why our political leadership and big business is so supportive of Biofuels
Yes, they never ever even point out electric vehicles.
To start with the majority of big grain producers are large corporate farms with a strong lobbying existence in Washington and a history of making campaign contributions to politicians that support their programs. Biofuels are big business for this business.
The car market likewise is heavily involved in politics, lobbying efforts, and campaign contributions. These companies have a huge investment in continuing to make internal combustion engines that burn fuels. Transferring to electric motors will need major retrofitting for these companies. Biofuels enable them to prevent making this investment.
The petroleum market has maybe the most to acquire from the application of Biofuels. They know that the public will ultimately require a move far from petroleum. All the other options will take service far from them. Nevertheless, they will be refining and distributing Biofuels just like they finish with petroleum– and crude Biofuels are cheaper too. So, the petroleum industry stands to make a good deal of cash from the distribution of Biofuels.
The petroleum industry makes huge campaign contributions to certain political leaders. They have been successful at having a number of their advocates and previous executives elected and appointed to the greatest levels of power in our present administration. It is not surprising that our politicians are embracing Biofuels.
The solution to both the energy crisis and pollution is to transition to non-consumable fuels. This means solar, geothermal, wind and tidal energy production of electricity. Even atomic energy could be a viable alternative if spent fuel can be safely transferred out of the Earth’s environment utilizing the low-priced rocket science recently developed. All of these types of energy production are currently in usage and are ending up being less expensive and more effective every day. We have not yet begun to see the economies of scale and innovation that will make this type of energy production more affordable the more that it is developed and utilized.
At this very minute, numerous companies are planning enormous solar energy setups in Arizona, which is beginning to be called the Silicon Valley or the Middle East of Solar power production. Big wind farms are being planned for the Plains states. We could be only years away from a huge transition to electric cars. For this to be effective we need to get industry and our political management to concentrate on this transition. This will take a lot longer if we enable them to stay focused on Biofuels rather.
When comparing non-consumable energy sources to sustain based energy production bear in mind that all fuels must be carried to where they are sold. The transportation of fuels burns more fuel– so these transportation costs must be figured into the numbers used for greenhouse gas emissions and energy efficiency. Circulation of electrical energy does involve some energy loss, but it is fractional compared to how much energy is used to transport fuel and does not discharge greenhouse gases.
Some of you may be wondering why I have not mentioned hydrogen fuel cells. There are 3 reasons:
- Hydrogen combustion still produces heat,
- Our engineers still have not determined how to produce hydrogen without utilizing big amounts of energy to do it, and
- The other renewal energy sources mentioned earlier have already moved beyond the speculative stage and are in real-world usage.