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Biofuel, also referred to as agrofuel, is a kind of fuel which is produced by assimilating parts of organic materials. In most cases, biofuel is made from any kind of material including wood, vegetable oil, algae, as well as ethanol. Biofuels are actually burnable fuel that is also generated from biomass. In most cases, biofuels come in the form of ethers, alcohols, as well as other chemicals generated from biomass. The most common biofuels are bioethanol and biodiesel.
Proponents of biofuel are of the view that it is a potential replacement for fuel that runs vehicles. Over the past couple of years, biofuels have been promoted as renewable fuels which are able to lessen the reliance of the world on fossil fuels. It is also promoted as environmentally clean, being useful for agricultural expansion. The escalating crisis in the petroleum industry as well as the energy sector at large has forced humanity to seek viable alternative sources of energy. Among possible alternatives, biofuels have come up as the most ideal substitute all over the world. In spite of this fact, there are controversies over their use. Biofuels came under considerable criticism not only regarding environment, but also regarding the economies of the world.
The Arguments Supporting the Use of Biofuels
Over and above, it makes some sense for humanity to switch its energy consumption habits from fossil fuel based energy to biofuel. This is mainly because unlike the fossil fuel which is not renewable, the biofuel crops can be easily renewed. After all, people can always plant the following year’s source of energy after a year’s yield. The other argument is that biofuel contain very few harmful particles or chemicals, unlike fossil fuel which contains them in large quantities.
Given the fact that its sources are renewable, farmers can always grow crops meant for fuel on an annual basis, with emphasis being laid on biodiesel sources which is appropriate for meticulous regions or climatic conditions. Additionally, the fact that the fuel material is renewable ensures stability in prices. This in turn makes certain that biofuel will not be subject to unpredicted scarcities, unlike petroleum based fuel price of which is largely unstable. By and large, the use of biofuel creates an increase in energy security especially for the nations involved in its production.
Consequently, such a country will not have to depend on imports or foreign markets which are usually unpredictable. By dipping their reliance on foreign sources of fuel, nations can in turn defend the authenticity of their energy resources, thus, making them safe from external influences. In addition to this, the cost of biofuels is less in comparison to the fossil fuel. This is very true considering that there are times when the demand for oil increases, thus, putting pressure on the declining oil supplies. This is a clear indication that there is need for more sources of biofuels.
This is actually one of the key reasons why biofuel is used. Moreover, biofuel lessens the amount of greenhouse secretions released in the environment. This eventually alleviates the impact of global warming, which is largely generated by petroleum fuel. The concept behind this argument is that when crops are grown for the purpose of generating biofuels, this counterbalances the greenhouse emissions since they directly eliminate carbon dioxide from the environment. If not checked, global warming is restructuring the bionetwork of the world in general.
The greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide released by fossil fuel trap radiation of the sun close to the surface of the planet. This in turn leads to global warming. This causes melting of glaciers on mountains in Africa like Mount Kilimanjaro. The use of biofuel such as ethanol reduces greenhouse emissions by up to 65%. According to some Australian scientists, biodiesel generated from fossil fuels reduces gas emissions by up to 87% in comparison to petroleum based fuel.
Those advocating for the use of biofuel also point out the fact that when compared to certain alternative fuels like hydrogen fuel cells or natural gas, biofuel is far more attractive due to the fact that it can be executed very fast. For instance, a typical diesel engine, especially the ones used in several countries, is able to burn biofuel without any need for vehicle adjustment. This basically implies that the engine technology is not only tested, but also refined. This means that in using biofuel, the only important necessity is establishing a network for distribution.
Economically, local production of biofuel in the country is a vital economic stimulation. This is because of the fact that local plants involved in manufacturing of biofuel are capable of employing thousands of citizens, thus, creating nascent job opportunities especially in the countryside. The production of biofuel also results in an increase in the demand for suitable biofuel crops, which is vital in economical stimulation of the agriculture industry.
Impacts of the Use of Biofuels
Increase in Commodity Prices
Opponents of the use of biofuel are of the view that the production of biofuel causes ripple effects that affects many sectors of the world economy. For instance, since a number of crops used in the production of biofuel is also popular sources of food, an increase in the production of biofuel is likely to result in the increase of prices for food commodities. Consider a situation in which a livestock farmer uses animal meal which is a mixture of corn to feed his flock.
In case a producer of ethanol begins to purchase the corn from the same source, the demand increase could cause an increase in corn prices. Consequently, the farmer is likely to pass the extra costs he/she incurs in feeding his/her flock to the consumer. Eventually, the prices of cattle, chicken, pigs, and meat will definitely increase, thus, resulting in an increased price tag to the consumers. This is likely to result in economic instability.
Another key economic shortcoming in the use of biofuel is that its production burns through too many resources, thus, affecting its feasibility. A couple of years ago, researches were conducted to ascertain the total resource input that goes in the production of biodiesel from some crops. After measuring the gas that was burned by tractors cultivating the fields, including the energy utilized in the production as well as the spread of fertilizer, it was noted that there are far too many expenses involved in the production of biofuel.
This was in addition to the irrigation of the fields as well as the energy it takes to move the water to the fields. As a matter of fact, it requires almost 27% more energy to produce the amount of energy contained in some biofuels. Even though advocates of the use of biofuels argue that new and future technologies as well as the economies of scale are likely to trim down the quotients, the fact is that there are many economic setbacks involved in the production of biofuels. This affects their attractiveness when compared to fossil based fuels.
Those who are opposed to the use of biofuels are also of the view that it has lower energy content per volume, in comparison to the typical petroleum based fuel. This basically implies that a driver utilizing biofuel is likely to see a significant loss of engine power. According to research, this accounts for up to 11% loss of engine power in vehicles.
By and large, the growth of crops meant for the production of biofuels has a direct impact on the environment as well as the land on which they are grown. Since this affects agricultural production, the moment the production of biofuel crops is increased, the nitrous oxide released by fertilizers is likely to increase the amount of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere, thus, increasing the effect of global warming. There is always an emission of greenhouse gases that affects both direct and indirect uses of land. For instance, an increase in the production of biofuels definitely triggers the switch of the use of land from one crop to another.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, the productivity of the land and crops, augmented techniques used in farming, as well as a rise in the yields directly affects the benefits of the production of biofuel. This is due to the fact that the early benefits of the production of biofuel can be made possible by increasing the land available for growing first generation crops. This eventually improves the yields with better agronomic practices which are expected to become dominant.
Consequently, this is likely to result in a situation in which farmers prefer to grow crops especially as feedstock for biofuels. This can displace other crops and result in great demand for new land for growing new feed stocks. In some countries like Canada, Australia, and the United States, uncultivated land is being set aside for the production of biofuels. This has the effect of changes of land use.
Who is Right in the Debate and Why
Advocates of the use of biofuels are right. Over and above, the key factor that contributes to intoxication of the environment arises from gasoline through chemical compounds. One of these elements is a compound also known as aromatics, which is able to cause cancer. The compounds emit minute particles that affect the functions of the lung. It is, therefore, vital that the world should decrease the use of petroleum based fuels and, thus, reduce the amount of chemicals being released into the environment.
When, compared to the usual fossil fuels, the utilization of biodiesel results in a general decline of the formation of smog emissions that arise from unburned hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide. In many ways, the use of biodiesel decreases nitrogen oxide emissions to a great extent. It is also evident that biofuels go a long way in assisting to protect the planet from global warming. This is because they cause less pollution in comparison to petroleum based fuels. Additionally, it goes without doubt that biofuels add more job opportunities to many economies around the world, especially to farmers as well as those living in poor rural areas. Another reason why the proponents of the use of biofuels are right is because since biofuels release fewer noxious wastes into the environment, they also assist in plummeting heat trapping gases.
It will come to a point when the world will run out of fossil fuel. As a result, the world’s main energy sources will be all used. This implies that the world should start using the biofuel, since the biofuel crops can be planted again and again. Apart from the fact that biofuels reduce a nation’s dependence on foreign oil; many nations anticipate that a rise in the use of biofuels can result in economic development. For instance, according to the International Food Policy Institute, ethanol that is generated from the cassava shrub is able to decrease the level of poverty in some African nations, who depend on agriculture for economic development.
The Sustainability of Biofuels
The soaring of oil prices every other day is alarming, especially, taking into consideration fact that petroleum based fuels are non-renewable sources of energy. It is for this reason that the world is in need of efficient and sustainable biofuels. One of the biofuel crops that can be widely used is the corn stover. Made up of leave and stalks of corn plants, corn stalker can be useful especially after the edible corn grain has been harvested. The supply of corn stover can reach as much as 25% of the amount of biofuel crop that is required by the year 2030.
A research carried out by scientists working withy the USDA-ARS Agro ecosystem unit located at the University of Nebraska realized that after harvesting the biofuel corn stover crop, it can be left in the fields. This is very effective in reinstating the vital nutrients back to the soil. This is because when the corn stover is harvested in full scale; such a move can result in the depletion of the soil.