Biofuels, such as Biomass, Ethanol and Biodiesel, are combustible fuels produced from current plant matter. As such, they are a Renewable energy source. In contrast, fossil fuels are the result of the chemical compression and transformation of ancient plant matter. Energy and tax policy towards Ethanol is an issue which receives close attention every four years from Presidential candidates because it is an important issue in the early caucus state of Iowa.
Biofuels like ethanol and biodiesel are particularly important in the renewable energy discussion becaues unlike many other alternatives to fossil fuels (wind, geothermal, solar, nuclear, hydroelectric, etc.), they are readily useable as a substitute for petroleum based fuels like gasoline and diesel whose world supply is most limited. Most other alternative energy sources can produce only electricity, which limitations in battery technology make difficult to convert into transportation uses.
Biomass refers to any organic matter that is generally burned to produce energy. An example is the use of sugar cane waste incineration in Cuba to fuel the sugar cane industry. Biomass is generally fairly high in pollution, though it is fully renewable.
Ethanol (sugar alcohol) is most frequently made from corn, and is the most familiar example of a biofuel. It is fully renewable and pollutes far less than its counterpart, gasoline, but contains less energy.
Biodiesel is quickly gaining in popularity as a vegetable oil-based alternative to petroleum diesel. It is fully renewable, pollutes far less than petroleum diesel, and is the only alternative fuel that can be used readily without engine or conveyance infrastructure modification.
Vegetable based oils are being developed to replace petroleum in lubricant roles as well as in fuel roles. Some proposed lubricants use recycled restaurant waste grease for this purpose.
Per Mile for a Passenger Car
*Lifecycle CO2 Emissions
Courtesy of Blue Sun Diesel
- American Bioenergy Association
- Study of Net Energy Balance Issue (i.e. Do biofuels take more energy to make than it produces? This study says no).
- DKos Diary Discussion
- theWatt Discussion On Biofuels
- National Biodiesel Board
- Bio Desiel.org
- Grease Car
- Grease Monkey Conversions
- Veggie Van
- World Energy
- Widescale Biodiesel Production from Algae