In the search for more and better sources for fuel, consumers are becoming more aware and involved in the production and promulgation of different available alternatives. One of the more popular choices to replace fossil-based energy sources is biofuels, liquid fuels produced from biomass (such as plant matter) or from the waste of living creatures (such as manure). The most common forms are biodiesel and ethanol. Positive support for biofuels has increased because technology advancements have made it easier to obtain, produce, use, and distribute this type of fuel. In addition to that, many environment conservationists say it is a greener option.
But can biofuels really supply enough fuel, especially when there is an ever increasing demand? Are they the best alternative energy source and the most affordable one? These are some of the questions which proponents from both sides of the fence are asking. As a consumer you also need to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of using biofuels before determining if you are comfortable with this resource.
List of Pros of Biofuels
1. They are less expensive.
As the worldwide demand for traditional fuels increases, the supply can dwindle and prices for this commodity can increase significantly. Biofuels can be a more affordable alternative, especially when it is sourced and produced locally. And if the supply and demand for this alternative energy source will increase, they can become even cheaper. Biofuels can also be used with current engine designs and can even prolong the working life of engines. This means fewer repairs and maintenance, resulting to even fewer expenses for consumers.
2. They are environmentally friendly.
Traditional fuels emit greenhouse gases when burned, polluting the environment and worsening the climate change problem. Biofuels produce significantly fewer toxins and less carbon output. Studies show that they can reduce greenhouse gases by about 65 percent. The carbon dioxide they emit back to the environment can be absorbed out of the atmosphere by the source plants used in biofuel production. This means they are a safer alternative to lower air pollution and to preserve atmospheric quality.
3. They are sourced from a wide range of materials.
Gasoline is refined from crude oil, which is a non-renewable source that will dry up in the near future. Fossil fuels also take a very long time to produce. On the other hand, biofuels can be sourced from a variety of natural materials that can easily be replaced. For example, crops grown specifically for the fuel (such as corn, soybeans, and switchgrass) can be replanted again and again. Aside from that, waste from those planted crops can also be used to manufacture biofuels. Manure is another source for biofuels, and this material is widely available.
4. They can be produced locally.
Not all countries have a large reserve of crude oil and some of them have to import their supply. The source materials for biofuels can be produced locally, thus decreasing a country’s dependence on foreign energy sources. This results to the protection of the integrity of local fuel resources and the increase of energy security.
5. They can stimulate the local economy.
Since biofuels can be produced locally, countries that employ this fuel alternative can open more biofuel manufacturing plants and increase land development initiatives for source production. This results to more employment opportunities, especially in rural areas. Aside from that, it can stimulate the agriculture industry further boosting the economy.
List of Cons of Biofuels
1. They produce industrial pollution.
Biofuels may emit lower carbon footprints but the process involved in the production of these fuels largely depends on oil and water. Studies show that the machinery needed to cultivate the crops emits large carbon emissions. Also, growing the plant source requires the use of large volumes of water, creating concern that it may strain the local and regional water resources if not managed wisely. One more issue is the use of large amounts of synthetic fertilizers, herbicide, and pesticides for the intensive cultivation of crops for biofuels. These agriculture products can cause water pollution and have harmful effects on the environment.
2. They require high initial investment.
A lot of equipment and money is needed in order to refine biofuels that have more efficient energy outputs. There is also the necessity of investing in more manufacturing plants in order to significantly increase the available biofuel supply.
3. They require more land conversion.
Another big concern for proponents against biofuel is the amount of land required to produce enough fuel supply to meet the demand. They argue that it may require converting all of the world’s remaining open spaces and forests into agricultural land. This can affect the habitat and biodiversity of plants and animals.
4. They can affect food supply and prices.
Once the demand for biofuels grows, a bigger supply is required. Farmers may be pushed to practice monoculture, the production of the same crops year after year, because it is more economically attractive. However, growing the same crop every year can deprive the soil of nutrients that are put back into the soil through crop rotation. Aside from this, most crops used in biofuel production are also used as food. Take corn and soybeans as examples. Now if most of these crops will be converted into fuels, it will decrease the food supply. This problem will also worsen if farmers will turn to growing single crops for biofuels. It may cause food shortages and raise food prices.
5. They are not easily available.
The technology required to produce biofuels that have efficient energy outputs in large quantities is still being polished. There also aren’t that many filling stations, and the few that exist are not accessible to the majority. This means that not everyone can get their hands on this fuel alternative and prices for this commodity can be pretty high.
Biofuels still require development and research in order to overcome the disadvantages. But there is strong evidence that biofuels can be a suitable alternative energy source for widespread consumer use. Hopefully, there will be more technology available to minimize the disadvantages and increase the advantages of using biofuels.
Brandon Miller has a B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin. He is a seasoned writer who has written over one hundred articles, which have been read by over 500,000 people. If you have any comments or concerns about this blog post, then please contact the Green Garage team here.