Soybean, corn, sugarcane, sweet sorghum, and wheat. At first glance, this may read like the contents of a shopping cart in an organic food store, but actually is a list of some of the ingredients used to create a rapidly developing sustainable and clean energy source—biofuel.
Biofuels, named so because of their origin from living organisms, are starting to garner significant attention in the energy market because of their transformative potential. Virtually any plant matter, from algae to trees, can be used to produce biofuels.
Dwindling conventional fuel sources, rising gas prices, and environmental concerns such as global warming are just some of the factors contributing to their popularity. By utilizing carbon within plant matter, biofuels do not add carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. This makes them environment-friendly. One other advantage of biofuels is that they can be produced using land otherwise unsuitable for agriculture, with the exception of algal biofuel that requires freshwater and massive swathes of arable land. The European Union, in fact, mandates that biofuels make up 10 percent of all fuel production, speculating that bioethanol use reduces up to 71 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.
Furthering the impending proliferation of biofuels are ingenious methods of production. As a case in point, University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers have developed a chemical treatment that, in time, could convert any plant material into raw material for fuel. Elsewhere, researchers in Denmark have found a way to extract biofuels from agricultural waste using acid from rice husks. Another example is bio-diesel, which can be produced using animal fats or even recycled restaurant grease.
Although a number of small organizations worldwide are dedicated solely to the refinement of biofuel production methods, the significant financial outlay necessitates enterprise backing to drive growth. Large organizations are now investing heavily in biofuel technologies. The world’s largest oil company plans to direct upwards of a staggering $600 million towards the development of algae-based fuels, while a leading global aerospace company has identified “green diesel”, produced from oils and fats, as a sustainable jet biofuel.
At this point in time, it may be hard to judge exactly when these biofuels will be commercially available. Industry research suggests that the late 2020s might be a reasonable estimate. However, a worldwide shift towards resourcefulness means that their benefits are hard to ignore and will continue to ‘fuel’ the accelerated development of synthesis techniques, making production at scale a significant possibility in the near future.
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Biofuels,energy production,environment friendly