Advantages and Disadvantages of Advanced Biofuels

899 words | 3 page(s)

Biofuels are mainly energy sources obtained from plants or crops. Some of the commonly used biofuels include ethanol and biodiesels that are usually blended with other compounds to provide energy. Currently, the use of the biofuels is steadily on the rise because of several factors that are considered advantageous.

From a general point of view, the definition of biofuels extends to gases, liquids and solids extracted from biomass. They can be obtained from various sources of carbon, particularly from plants. Common ways through which the biofuels are obtained include the growing of plants that naturally produce oils (Dokua and Falco , 102). Such plants include palm oil, algae and soybean among others, which can be burned in a diesel engine. Similarly, this form of energy can also be derived from sugar crop, such as sugar cane, and corn that can be fermented to produce ethanol. Also by products like wood chippings can also produce biofuels such as methanol. As a result, there are different types of biofuels include ethanol, biodiesel and Isobutanol. The use of biofuels has faced both criticisms and approvals.

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According to Spoolman and Miller (412), advanced biofuels produced from plants and plants wastes are currently being used as an alternative for petroleum-based fuels and gasoline. In terms of the advantages of using biofuels, Spoolman and Miller (412) argue that advanced biofuels offer three main advantages when compared to other types of energy sources such as gasoline and petroleum. To begin with, they posit that while oil resources tend to be concentrated in a few countries, biofuel crops can tolerate wide geographic and climatic conditions across the globe. This implies that countries growing the biofuel crops will not have to depend on external sources. This will in turn ensure economic sustainability.

Subsequently, compared to gasoline and other energy sources, the crops used for the production of a biofuel do not have any negative effect on the environment in the event that the crops are not used at a much faster rate than they get replenished. This is attributed to the fact that there crops do no not have any effect on the net increase in the amount of carbon dioxide emissions into the environment. Spoolman and Miller (412) affirms that increase in the amount of carbon dioxide emissions as a result of an increase in the biomass of biofuel crops may occur only in the event that all the existing grasslands and forests are cleared to plant biofuel crops.

Another major advantage accrued to the use of advanced biofuels, such isobutanol, is the ease of storage and subsequent transportation. Most advanced biofuels can be stored in normal storage containers and also transported through the commonly existing fuel distributions and transporting networks, like pipeline and road transport (Dokua and Falco , 102). Furthermore, they can also be used in motor vehicles at a considerably little or no additional cost.

Similarly, advanced biofuels are also associated with the remarkable cost benefits. Although the cost of biofuels is considered to be almost equal to that of gasoline and diesel-based fuels, the perceived overall cost benefit accrued to biofuels is considered to be significantly higher. This overall cost benefit arises from the fact that most of the advanced biofuels are cleaner energy sources, implying that they do not cause any emission (University of Minnesota). Similarly, they are adaptable to a various modern engine designs and tend to perform well under varied conditions. This means that less engine maintenance and longevity.

With regard to the demerits associated with biofuels, (Demirbas ,2106) explains that from the environmental point of view, advanced biofuels can also have negative impacts. For instance, in some regions, particularly the tropics, the search for land to produce biofuels, combined with the search for agricultural land, is intensifying deforestation and increasing the loss of biodiversity. Some of the examples of countries that have faced this problem include Indonesia and Malaysia that are currently among the leading countriesproducing palm oil, and Brazil, which is struggling with the production of sugar cane.

Furthermore, another problem with biofuel production is that growing the biofuel crops in climates that require irrigation could have an impact on the water supplies, especially in arid regions. To some extent, this has been associated industrial pollution. Although the use of biofuels has lesser carbon footprint, the production process for the biofuels can lead to pollution. Some of the large scale industries that engage in the extraction of the biofuels are known to produce significant amounts of emissions and some form of water pollution particularly in the form of discharge from the industry. As a whole, this implies that to some extent the use of advanced biofuels also contributes to the carbon emission.

Owing to the disadvantages and the benefits that face the use of biofuels, Santos (148) argues for the adoption of a critical product selection and management approach. The approach should take into consideration the competition with food production and potentially negative environmental effect, which may potentially reduce the more serious impacts of biofuel production.

  • Demirbas, Ayhan. “Biofuels sources, biofuel policy, biofuel economy and global biofuel projections.” Energy Conversion and Management 49.8 (2008): 2106 – 2116.
  • Dokua, Angela and Salvatore Di Falco. “Biofuels in developing countries: Are comparative advantages enough?” Energy Policy 44 (2012): 101-117.
  • Santos, Filipe Duarte. Humans on Earth: From Origins to Possible Futures. New York: Springer, 2012.
  • Spoolman, Scott and George Tyler Mille. Living in the Environment. Mason, OH: Cengage Learning, 2012.
  • University of Minnesota. Alternative Source of Energy. 2013. 20 December 2013 .

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