By Gary Thomas
Researched By Lily Easto
The Need for Renewable Energy and Biofuels
Are The Main Types of Biofuel that Can be Used in Transport?
How are Biofuels
are The Benefits of Using Biofuels in Transport?
are the Drawbacks of Using Biofuels In Transport?
Biofuels Being Used In Transport
The Need for Renewable Energy and Biofuels
Over the past century global warming and non-renewable energy
have become ever growing problems for our planet. A move towards using
more sustainable methods of transportation is vital if we wish to
continue living in the way to which we have become accustomed.
One way of doing this is by using renewable energy in
transportation, such as cars, buses and aeroplanes. Renewable energy
simply refers to an energy source that will replenish itself on a
relatively short timescale.
A possible renewable fuel that could be used is ‘biofuel’.
Biofuel, as the name suggests, is an energy source derived from organic
material, and ranges from alcohol to firewood.
Over the article the different types of biofuels, how they are
formed, and where they are being used will be discussed.
Are The Main Types of Biofuels that Can be Used in Transportation?
The term ‘biofuel’ is generally used to refer to ethanol and
diesel, but there are several different forms of biofuels that all have
Biodiesel: The most commonly used biofuel,
biodiesel is similar to conventional diesel and can be used in
conjunction with conventional diesel in most new vehicles. In chemical
terms, it is a ‘fatty acid methyl’.
Vegetable Oil : A common site in most kitchen cupboards,
vegetable can also be used to power transportation. Though in most
countries the main purpose of the oil is to aid production of
biodiesel, in warmer climates in can also be used as pure fuel in
Biogas: This is a naturally produced gas that is the same as
‘landfill gas’, which forms from anaerobic digesters.
Bioalcohols: There are several naturally produced alcohols
that can be used as fuels. The most common of these is ethanol, which
can be used in older car engines. Another important alcohol is butanol,
which can be directly used in gasoline engines and is very energy
The chemical structure of
ethanol. Image Credit: www.in.gov
Syngas: This is produced by converting organic material into
gases like hydrogen and carbon monoxide, and then into energy by a
process of pyrolysis (thermal decomposition without the aid of oxygen).
It can be used in various applications.
are Biofuels Produced?
In theory, any carbon source can be turned into a biofuel.
Generally, the source of carbon used for biofuels is plants, as either
biomass (from living plants) or bio waste (e.g. decomposed plants).
Bioalcohols: In the production of ethanol and other
alcohol-based biofuels, fermentation of sugar crops and starch is used,
during which enzymes and microorganisms break the sugar and starch down
into usable fuels.
Biodiesel: Biodiesel is formed by mixing plant waste with
sodium hydroxide and methanol. It can also be produced from fats and
greases, and from soy and vegetable oil. The method by which biodiesel
is produced is called ‘transesterification’ which reacts fats or oil
Vegetable Oil: Plants naturally produce oil, which can then be
heated to be used directly in diesel engines. Examples of plants that
produce oil include oil palm, soya bean and algae.
are The Benefits of Using Biofuels in Transportation?
One of the major benefits of using biofuels is that it reduces
CO2 emissions. Burning conventional fossil fuels
releases greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, which can lead to global
warming. However, as biofuels are produced from plant materials, the
plants used in the production of these fuels actually absorb carbon
dioxide from the atmosphere. It is thought that the use of biodiesel
produces around 60% less carbon dioxide relative to fossil fuels.
Furthermore, biofuels are renewable, and so will not run out-
unlike fossil and nuclear fuels.
Other important benefits of biodiesel include: It can be mixed
with diesel in cars and buses, it is non-toxic and biodegradable and
therefore is of no threat to humans, and it only ignites at extremely
are the Drawbacks of Using Biofuels In Transportation?
Biofuels do have drawbacks, however. The biggest issue is the
loss of biodiversity, because if biofuel is used heavily then only
certain types of crops will be grown, meaning certain species of flora
and fauna will have no natural habitat. Also, large areas of vital
rainforest could be lost if it is replaced by palm oil or sugar cane
Also, though biofuels release fewer greenhouse gases into the
atmosphere, some critics say that as much energy is used in the farming
of the crops used and the production and processing stages.
Furthermore, many climate researchers say that the focus
should be on reducing energy use entirely, not replacing the energy we
use with a different source. The production of biofuels may take
attention away from the ultimate goal.
of Biofuels Being Used In Transportation
The use of biofuels has increased exponentially over the last
decade, and between 2000 and 2005 the output of biodiesel increased by
a factor of four.
The primary producing nations of biofuel are Brazil, USA,
France, Sweden and Germany.
The USA produces more biofuel than any other country and is
looking to replace 75% of imported oil with biofuels by the year 2025.
The biofuel program in the USA is currently heavily subsidised, with
over 200 different available subsidies.
Brazil is the one of the world’s top producers of biodiesel,
which it produces from sugarcane. 60% of cars here run on 85% ethanol.
The Canadian government has recently announced that it will be
investing $1million in Pond Biofuels, which will help to increase
sustainability in Canada’s cement industry.
In the UK, biofuels make up around 3% of total fuel used,
which equates to around 1440million litres. The target in the UK is to
have 10% of transportation energy sourced from biofuels by 2020.