With our carbon budget running low and keep using the remaining fossil fuel reserves underneath our feet is also not the best option if we want to keep our dear mother blue planet running sustainably. On that matter, We already set our eyes on alternative energy solutions that are cleaner, environment friendly, and on top of it all renewable and sustainable. In that quest, we find so many candidates that fit into the category of alternative energy.
Before we go any further, it’s good to know a little bit more about alternative energy. Traditionally and generally speaking our source of power is fossil fuel (coal, Oil, and natural gas). In that sense, the energy that’s produced from any source other than fossil fuels is considered alternative energy. In other words, alternative energy is any amount of energy derived from non-fossil fuel sources. Alternative energy was expected to have a low impact on the environment and also expected to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. Make no mistake, that not all alternative energy sources are renewable. but all renewable energy sources fall under the category of alternative energy.
These are an example of the most common alternative energy we use so far: wind energy, solar energy, hydroelectric energy, geothermal energy, bioenergy, Nuclear energy, Hydrogen energy, Tidal and wave energy.
We’re talking about biofuels, a bioenergy product. Bioenergy is generated from organic material known as biomass and it can be converted directly into liquid fuels, known as biofuels. The two most common types of biofuels in use today are ethanol and biodiesel. The last one must be familiar to your ears cause it is common in our gas station.
There are a few types of biofuels, but today we’ll gonna focus on liquid biofuels. The first one is ethanol (ethyl alcohol) which is made by fermenting starch or sugar. Brazil and the United States are among the leading producers of ethanol. In the United States, ethanol biofuel is made primarily from corn (maize) grain, and it is typically blended with gasoline to produce “gasohol,” a fuel that is 10 percent ethanol. In Brazil, ethanol biofuel is made primarily from sugarcane, and it is commonly used as a 100-percent-ethanol fuel or in gasoline blends containing 85 percent ethanol.
Biodiesel is the second liquid biofuel. Primarily made out of oily plants like soybean or oil palm (which is one of the biggest commodities of our country) and to a lesser extent from other oily sources (such as waste cooking fat from restaurant deep-frying). Biodiesel has found its greatest acceptance in Europe.
All around Biofuels are dependable, renewable, and eco-friendly alternative energy, but does it do well in a long run? does it sustainable? let’s dissect this from a few perspectives.
Through economic lense
If we look at the cost of making Biofuels from the eyes of an economic perspective the energy required to produce them has to be taken into account. According to an article by Clarence Lehman for Britanica.com, “the process of growing corn to produce ethanol consumes fossil fuels in farming equipment, in fertilizer manufacturing, in corn transportation, and in ethanol distillation. In this respect, ethanol made from corn represents a relatively small energy gain; the energy gain from sugarcane is greater and that from cellulosic ethanol or algae biodiesel could be even greater.”
Through Environment lense
From an environmental point of view, Biofuels do not always benefit the environment. It depends on how they are manufactured, this can also have serious environmental drawbacks. the industrial production of agricultural biofuels can result in additional emissions of greenhouse gases that may offset the benefits of using a renewable fuel. as renewable energy, the manufacture of biodiesel which requires land to grow oil palm, more often to clear new land through deforestation. This has a far detrimental impact on biota diversity in areas experiencing deforestation.
The proper way to grow biofuels to serve all needs simultaneously will continue to be a matter of much experimentation and debate, but the fast growth in biofuel production will likely continue.
Biofuel can be an alternative energy that can be renewed but that does not mean it’s problem free. Developed countries still conducting research and trying to find ways to be able to balance the results obtained with the effort expended in the manufacture of biofuels.
According to an article by Clarence Lehman for Britanica.com “One distinctive promise of biofuels is that, in combination with an emerging technology called carbon capture and storage, the process of producing and using biofuels may be capable of perpetually removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Under this vision, biofuel crops would remove carbon dioxide from the air as they grow, and energy facilities would capture the carbon dioxide given off as biofuels are burned to generate power“