The Pros and Cons of Biofuels
For the last few years, and especially recently, the production of biofuels has been on the rise and it doesn’t seem like it will curb at any time soon. However, the question of whether this is ecologically best choice remains to be answered. Personally, I think there are more negatives than positives for these resources to be our best bet. So inspired by and article in “Fortune”, I decided to put forward a list of most popular biofuels and their pros and cons for you to decide it for yourself.
Compared with oil it may help decrease the gas emissions as well as reduce the world’s dependence on oil. It also promotes the building of biofuels infrastructure.
The production of ethanol requires a lot of energy, which doesn’t quite cover the energy efficiency demand. The recent boom in corn demand has increased the prices of corn bushels from $2 last year to $5 this year, which means an increased cost of everything from beef to soft drinks and most of your groceries. Farmers devote more land to corn and less to other grains, which raises the prices of corn worldwide. Over 450 lbs of corn are needed to produce 25 gallons of ethanol—enough to feed a person for a year!
It is estimated that biodiesel will reduce gas emissions 40%-80%. It also provides 90% more energy than is required to produce it.
The demand for biodiesel has led to an increasing number of Amazon and South East Asia forests being cut down and replaced with palm tree plantations, which released huge amounts of greenhouses gasses into the atmosphere and, in itself, is more of a danger than solution. Luckily, the practice has been limited.
Sugar-cane generates more ethanol per acre than corn and it needs less energy to produce, therefore is regarded as a more eco-friendly than corn ethanol. The increased demand for sugar ethanol hasn’t raised the food prices since sugar is not a basic ingredient in food production like corn.
Growing cane requires a certain type of climate, namely warm and rainy, which limits its potential for being a global source of fuel.
The production of cellulosic ethanol doesn’t involve switching the use of cropland from growing food to growing biofuels since it is made by breaking down wood chips, farm waste and nonfood crops, such as grass.
It requires more energy to produce ethanol from nonfood plants than corn or sugar cane. The production of cellulosic ethanol is still expensive and the process of making ethanol from nonfood plants is difficult.
Since it is a fastest growing plant on the planet, algae can produce up to 30 times more energy per acre than other biofuel sources. Moreover, a promising combination of byproducts can be made into algal-biofuels, which may contribute to their cost effectiveness.
Unfortunately, the biomass for making algal biofuel does not yet exist and it has to be grown. Harvesting it is quite expensive, thus cost effective production of this type of biofuel is still years away.
Source: THE PROS AND CONS OF BIOFUELS