Biofuel can be defined as a renewable energy source that can be produced from biological biomass or materials such as, corn, vegetable oils, and sugar cane (Ajanovic 2073). The most commonly used mode of biofuels nowadays is biodiesel and ethanol. Some traditional fossil fuels are made from biological materials and may also be treated as biofuel. Such fossil fuels include coal and other materials that have decayed for a thousand years. The key difference between biofuel and fossil fuel is that biofuels are made from materials that have died and decayed within a very short period while fossil fuel are made from materials that have died and decayed for hundred and thousand years (Afrane 449). Use of biofuels as an alternative energy source has several advantages some of which are related to environmental protection. For instance, when biodiesel is used instead of gasoline, environmental pollution is reduced by a higher percentage. Biofuel is also good for diesel engine because it provides better lubrication and leaves lower residues in the engine after burning.
Use of Resources for Biofuel Production
“The most available biofuels are made from sugar crops, starch crops, oilseed crops, and animal fats. Biodiesel can be processed from animal fats and oil. Through the process of fermentation, sugar and starch crops are converted to form bioalcohols that include butanol, ethanol, and propanol”
(Quintero 429). Second generation of biofuels is made of cellulose that is retrieved from waste biomass as well as non-food crops. Use of algae as feedstock makes the third generation of biofuels (Quintero 429).
Impact on Food Cost
Between 2005 and 2007, the price of many agricultural commodities went high as a result of structural change in demand for food in some countries, poor harvest, high oil prices, population growth, and devaluation of the U.S. dollar. In addition, many food prices indices such as the consumer price index (CPI), food price index, and WB price index also rose during the same period (Lankoski and Markku 679). This is because global production of ethanol almost doubled and biodiesel production increased by three times since 2005. Some countries in Europe encouraged use of food crops like barley, wheat, and soybeans for production of biofuels. United States also encouraged use of corn while Brazil has continued to use sugar cane in producing ethanol that has greatly increased food prices (Ogoshi 1759).
Increase in biofuels production has also threatened food security in poor sectors of the economy across the world by affecting food supply (Ajanovic 2076). This is because the need for Biofuel energy globally has increased concerns by small scale farmers in tropical countries, which have in turn threatened use of arable land that could create competition with food production for labor, land, water, and inputs. Energy prices could in-turn affect the price of agricultural commodities through opportunity cost by direct competition to end product. For example, since 1970, Brazil has been producing ethanol from sugarcane and price of sugarcane is related to that of ethanol (Quintero 430).
Environmental Issues Surrounding the Production of Biofuels
There are several environmental, economical, social, and technical issues surrounding the use and production of biofuels. Some of these issues include biofuels effects on poverty reduction, effect on oil price moderation, sustainable biofuels production, and carbon emissions (Afrane 447). Environmental impacts of biofuels are related to deforestation and soil erosion whereby due to high demand for biofuels, people have continued to clear large portions of land in order to create land for planting palm oils. In most countries that have been progressive, deforestation of mature trees in large scale helps removes carbon dioxide through photosynthesis.
Use of biofuels also creates environmental pollution by use of acetaldehyde, formaldehyde, and other chemicals that are produced as a result of oxidizing alcohols. Many of this adehydes are harmful to living things whereby at high levels of concentration of chemicals, there is enclosed space and formaldehydes that can be irritating to respiration because it can cause respiratorydistress, nose bleeding, and lung disease (Quintero 429). Water resources have also been affected by increased use of biofuels by use of water in refineries for producing of biofuels in refineries and more often in cooling and boiling.
Biofuels need a larger amount of energy input per unit of BTU energy content than fossil fuels require as a rule (Ogoshi 1758). Research indicates that only limited savings in green house emissions and savings in energy are produced by biofuels.
Comparative Advantages and Disadvantages of Using Different Sources for Making Biofuels
There are several benefits associated with the use of different sources in making biofuels. For example, use of algae contributes a large scope of biofuels per acre of land than some other various biofuels do (Lankoski and Markku 677). Algae could produce more than 3,000 gallons of fuel per acre in a single production. When algae are used, fuel is highly productive and as a result, large quantities of algae can be grown very fast. Most of resources used in biofuel production have low carbon emission when they are burned making them good alternatives for reducing air pollution and preserving atmospheric quality. Most of the resources used in making biofuel are locally available and therefore they help in stimulating the economy through employment of people in manufacturing plants.
Some of disadvantages include the high initial cost of the process that is involved in refining biofuel to a more effective energy source and construction of the necessary manufacturing plant that increases the quantity of biofuel (Ajanovic 2072). Some materials used in making biofuels like soybeans, corn, and sugarcane have resulted to increased food prices due to high demand for food crops. There has been increased strain in regional water and local resources due to irrigation of biofuel crops and manufacture of biofuels.
The role of technology in improving the efficiency of biofuel production and Minimization of Adverse Impacts
The expansion of biofuel production and usage will require developing new technology, equipment, and methods for collection, storage, and processing biomass in a way that it cannot have harmful effects to the environment (Ogoshi 1757). For instance, in crop technology, the main biotechnological applications includes marker assisted selection, tissue culture, and transgenic technology. Markers are helpful in analysing the influence of complex traits like tolerance to stress and plant productivity that are being employed in development of suitable cultivators of major crops. Micropropagation has helped in producing high quality disease free planting material while tissue culture has provided the means to overcome reproductive isolating barriers. By understanding gene regulation and expression, people will be able to modify crops in order to provide fiber, food, fuel and medicine as well as tolerance to climate (Quintero 428).
Societal issues such as National Security, Economics, Setting Policy
Biotechnology provides several benefits to the society that includes: renewed economic growth, providing new jobs, national security and energy security (Afrane 445). Through increased growth of biobased economy, a nation’s economic security is strengthened by increased exports of affordable goods of the consumer and increased domestic manufacturing and thereby the balance of trade in the U.S. (Ajanovic 2071). Biorefineries also help in revitalizing traditional manufacturing, create new manufacturing opportunities and therefore create high quality manufacturing jobs. By reducing dependence on foreign oil and reducing energy prices, a country’s security is also enhanced.
Afrane, George. “Examining the Potential for Liquid Biofuels Production and Usage in Ghana.” Energy Policy 40.1 (2012): 444-451. Print.
Ajanovic, Amela. “Biofuels Versus Food Production: Does Biofuels Production Increase Food Prices.” Energy 36.4 (2011): 2070-2076. Print.
Lankoski, Jussi and Ollikainen Markku. “Biofuel Policies And The Environment: Do Climate Benefits Warrant Increased Production From Biofuel Feedstocks.” Ecological Economics 70.4 (2011): 676-687. Print.
Ogoshi, Richard, et al. “Optimizing Biofuel Production: An Economic Analysis for Selected Biofuel Feedstock Production in Hawaii.” Biomass and Bioenergy 35.5 (2011): 1756-1764. Print.
Quintero, Julian. “Social and Techno-Economical Analysis of Biodiesel Production in Peru.” Energy Policy 43.1 (2012): 427-435. Print.