Biofuel and Renewable Energy
A brief description of how biofuel is made, how it is used as an inexpensive and renewable energy source, and the attendant controversy.
Every time there's an increase in oil prices, people feel it, even if they don't drive a car. Some suggest we use biofuel to lessen the impact of the rising fuel costs.
But what is biofuel, and how does it differ from fossil fuel?
Biofuel is produced from recycled elements of the food chain, and from plants. It is used in vehicles, and is considered a sustainable and renewable source of energy, as compared to majority of liquid and gas fuels used today. Conventional fuels are fossil-based, and there are limited sources available. These sources are depleting fast, and if we don't find a good replacement, one day our cars will basically stop running.
Types of Biofuels
Biofuels can be used in their pure forms, or they can be blended with other fossil fuels. There are two basic types: biodiesel, and bioethanol. These are currently available on the market and most engines are compatible with them. There is no need to modify one's existing engine in order to use them.
This type of biofuel is created using a process that combines oil with alcohol, in the presence of a catalyst, to produce either methyl or ethyl ester. The alcohol used can either be methanol or ethanol. The esters are then blended with the standard diesel fuel, or can be used in their pure forms (100% biodiesel). Biodiesel can replace diesel, or it can be combined with it in such a way that it helps run diesel engines with little or no modifications required. Biodiesel is said to be better for the environment because of the fact that it produces fewer emissions, while at the same time being made from renewable supplies.
Bioethanol is made by oxygenating various agricultural stocks, such as sugar and starch crops. It can be used in existing engines, although a small quantity of conventional fuel is needed for cold starting. Vegetable ETBE is used at present, as a fuel additive that can enhance octane rating. The vegetable ETBE is a replacement for MTBE, which is made from unsustainable sources.
Biofuel might appear to be a promising renewable energy solution, but there are still some issues that need to be addressed regarding its use. While its use may lower the level of carbon emissions on the planet, the production of biofuel has caused debate. The concern is whether crops should be used for fuel or be reserved for use as food.
Article Tags: Renewable Energy
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