As new sources of fuel getting popular in the last few decades, there is also a growing interest in biofuels. So what are some of the common pros and cons of biofuels? Here is a quick list.
Biofuels are renewable energy sources derived from biomass – that is, plant, algae material, or animal waste. This leads us to the question: Is it, in reality, the answer to the frightening and critical state of our world’s increasing energy demands and depleting resources?
Here is the moment of truth- there are enough advantages of biofuels to deem it an efficient short-term solution, but we are still far from finding an ideal framework. A lot of work still needs to be done.
Even though it may be a short-term answer to the woes of global warming and the like, biofuel utilization allows us precious time to research and develop other renewable energy sources.
Keep reading to find out all the pros and cons of biofuels, their impact on the planet, individual economies, and energy consumption patterns.
What are Biofuels?
Biofuels are those fuels that are produced using organic material. We can use many raw materials to produce biofuels, such as corn, sugarcane, vegetable seed oil, soybean oil, algae, and animal manure.
Industries can also make it by using used cooking oil. Many companies specialize in waste oil collection from restaurants and use it to produce biofuels- a great initiative to reduce our carbon footprint vastly.
Examples of Biofuels
They can be in solid, liquid, and gaseous forms. Here are a few examples of biofuels and the raw materials that we can use to produce them.
- Ethanol: Made from crops with high sugar and starch content(carbohydrates) such as corn and sugarcane.
- Biodiesel: Made using vegetable oils, used cooking oils, and animal fats.
- Green diesel: It is derived from algae, wood, crop residues, and sawdust.
- Biogas: Carbon dioxide and methane gas obtained from animal manure and other organic waste.
Overview – Biofuels Pros and Cons List
Here is a comprehensive list weighing all of the advantages and disadvantages of biofuels.
What Are the Advantages of Biofuels?
Now that we are in sync with what it is, let’s take a look at the advantages of biofuels.
Renewable Energy Resource
Renewable energy is replenished quickly by nature and will not end anytime soon. Unlike fossil fuels, coal, and natural gas, biofuels are easily replaced. Thus, they are cost-effective and environmentally benign.
As the population grows we need more and more energy. Therefore, it is crucial to look for resources that will not deplete in the near future.
Unless we focus on renewable clean energy for our energy needs, we will exhaust all available forms of fuels that we currently have.
Scientists and environmentalists are constantly trying to shift the paradigm from non-renewable to renewable forms to help provide our future generations with a better, cleaner planet.
Green energy is one that environmentally safe sources can produce for us. Another significant advantage of biofuels is that we derive them from non-toxic substances. It is easily scalable and flexible and does not harm the planet.
Moreover, ethanol and biodiesel burn clean when used for cars and vehicles, thus reducing carbon impact.
Reduces Landfills and Waste
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. This saying is perfect for the biofuel industry that widely uses manure, waste from crops, sawdust, and used cooking oil for production.
Moreover, many companies are also using household waste and industrial by-products as raw materials for the production of Green Energy.
Many countries struggle to manage their waste and landfill sites. Biofuels check all boxes which are required to eliminate waste. They are a perfect solution to utilize the land for better purposes and manage pollution levels.
It is an effective way of utilizing one industry’s trash and converting it into a green and clean form of energy.
Low Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions
Greenhouse gases warm our planet and lead to global warming. Indeed, it is vital to steer clear of fuels that emit greenhouse gases when burned.
Biofuels burn clean, emit significantly fewer greenhouse gases, and are entirely biodegradable. If you use ethanol for your vehicles, you reduce up to 86% of greenhouse gas emissions more than fossil fuel.
Moreover, the crops that are grown to produce biomass absorb carbon dioxide which helps clean the air. This dual effect makes it wise to use biofuels as an alternative energy source to power your vehicles.
One of the significant advantages of biofuels is it helps reduce pollution. Using biodiesel for your car can improve the air quality considerably for millions of people. Vehicles that use biodiesel significantly reduce pollutants such as tiny pollution matter and hydrocarbon emissions.
Biodiesel is also void of sulfur and pungent hydrocarbons, which negatively impact the atmosphere. Better air ensures better well-being!
Helps the Economy
Using biofuels as an alternative to fossil fuels is a healthy way for countries to become self-sufficient. Fuel costs make up a large chunk of an economy’s GDP. Since biomass is readily available globally, governments can utilize it to increase self-reliance and improve the Balance of Payments.
There are plenty of raw materials that we can use to produce biomass. This ease of usage means that countries can produce cheaper local energy. After the initial investment, they can utilize readily available raw materials for production. Besides that, it also helps to achieve energy security for developing or developed countries.
Biofuels pave the way for more jobs, ultimately improving the standard of living for most people. The industry provides a wide range of jobs for people right from cultivation, transportation, production, and supply.
This industry is labor-intensive and requires both skilled and unskilled labor forces. Most importantly, the industry creates direct employment, but it also starts a multiplier effect. According to research, the industry will lead to the creation of 807,000 new jobs by the year 2023.
Protects the Engine
Compared to petroleum fuels, you can protect your vehicle’s engine from rapid wear and tear using biofuels. It is an engine-friendly fuel that does not deposit or clog, thereby increasing your car’s life with fewer repair costs.
What are the Disadvantages of Biofuels?
Even though there are numerous advantages of biofuels, there are plenty of drawbacks and shortcomings associated with the industry.
Let’s explore why biofuels are not the ultimate solution for the global energy crunch.
Needs a Lot of Water
The irony of the biofuel industry is that its production requires tons of water, a scarce non-renewable resource. While the industry uses natural resources and converts them into energy, the process requires a lot of water to irrigate the crops and the production process.
The cultivation of biofuel crops usually requires a large amount of water. This leads to a decline in the water resources that most countries are not able to afford.
Agro-based countries require water to irrigate staple crops and feed the population too. Therefore, it’s not always easy to consider biofuel production through plant-based sources.
Reduces Agricultural Land for Food Crops
Rich agricultural land is already scarce. If farmers use this land for growing crops for the biofuel industry, it will lead to a disbalance in Biodiversity. The implications could be severe and damaging. A decrease in food crops worldwide can lead to inflated prices.
As the food supply decreases, the prices will go up, and there will be a threat of global hunger and starvation. To sum up, biofuels pose a question mark on food security.
No Crop Rotation
Crop rotation is an essential technique to give back nutrients to the land. It involves changing the crop planted on a particular piece of land. However, when farmers cultivate the land for biomass, only a limited number of crops are grown there.
Hence, the soil gets deprived, leading to an increased usage of pesticides and fertilizers.
Deforestation is the removal of trees for multiple reasons. It causes the extinction of animals, changes to climatic conditions, desertification, and environmental threats.
As the demand for energy crops grows to produce more biomass, it will lead to a mass cut down of forests, grasslands, and other forms of vegetation.
A report regarding the global usage of biofuels has found alarming statistics. Researchers have concluded that by 2030, 7 million hectares of forests would be cut down to provide the ‘green fuel.’
Environmentalists speculate that biofuels bring about more harm to the environment than good, and in reality, they lead to increased carbon emissions by 11.5 tonnes per year.
High Cost of Production and Low Yields
The production of biofuels is an extensive process. Similarly, the price of raw materials is also high since it involves a long process.
Moreover, biofuels have a lower energy density for each unit produced. Both these factors lead to an increase in overall cost compared to their fossil fuel counterparts.
Having said that, when industries produce biofuels using agricultural and commercial waste, they are more energy and cost-efficient. For example, we can grow algae on unprofitable land and irrigate it using wastewater from industries.
Creates More Pollution Compared to Wind and Solar
Solar and wind power are clean energy sources. After the initial installation, they provide long-term energy solutions. The burning of materials to produce biofuels emit a lot of nitrous oxides that could lead to global warming. The use of pesticides in farming practices also pollutes the water.
Lack of awareness and general information about biofuels is a significant factor reducing their utility. Biofuels are still in their infancy, and lots of research and development are required to make them more popular. Until then, most users who are unaware of this fuel source will continue to use other sources to meet their energy requirements.
Not Suitable in All Weather Conditions
Biofuels attract more moisture than fossil fuels which makes them unsuitable for use in colder regions. They also have a higher quantity of saturated fatty acid methyl esters.
In cold climates, it can be challenging to use high blends of biofuels for vehicles since they tend to freeze at lower temperatures.
Pros of Biofuels
Cons of Biofuels
|Green energy -comes from natural sources||Not enough land space to grow crops to generate biofuels|
|Renewable form of energy- constantly replenished by nature||Global decline in food production-As more land is directed towards biomass production|
|Helps keep the environment clean- low level of greenhouse gas emissions||Can cause prices of staple crops to increase due to decreased availability of land|
|Improved utilization of land and waste||Might lead to global hunger and malnutrition due to inflating food prices|
|Reduction in landfill sites||Can put a strain on water resources-High water demand for the cultivation of biomass and in the production process|
|As efficient as gasoline||Most vehicles are not equipped to utilize biofuels|
|A large number of sources are available for the production of biofuels||Huge startup investment required|
|Reduces burden on a single energy resource especially fossil fuels||High production cost|
|Employment generation due to increased local production||Not preferred by many as it can erode some metals, rubber, and plastic parts|
|Economic security – countries can become self-sufficient by providing for themselves||Might lead to deforestation to make way for biomass crops|
|Comparatively safe technology that is easier to implement as well||Funding required for research and development|
|Easily blends with existing fuels||Biodiversity loss as land consumption pattern changes|
|Lower pollution compared to burning fossil fuels||Not viable when compared to solar and wind power|
So Is Biofuel an Efficient Source for Environment?
Biofuels are an efficient way to convert waste into energy. However, it can lead to an overall impact on the global climate owing to unsafe farming practices.
Biofuels made from food crops are not the answer to climate change or energy crises. On the other hand, by using waste products from industries, by-products of crops, and organic animal waste, biofuels can be made profitable as well as Carbon Neutral.
Nevertheless, biofuels have significantly reduced the dependence on non-renewable energy. By using better production techniques and sourcing cheaper raw materials, biofuels can play a vital role in sustaining economies and helping slow down global warming.
We hope that examining biofuels’ pros and cons will help you make an informed decision.