Biofuel power without the harmful side effects.

Glossary

Ethanol - The same type of alcohol found in alcoholic beverages, but instead used to fuel a car.

Algal - To be related to Algae.

Petroleum - A liquid mixture of Hydrogen and Carbon that is present in certain rock layers and can be extracted and refined to produce fuels including gasoline, kerosene, and diesel oil.

Monopoly - the exclusive possession or control of the supply or trade in a commodity or service.

Fossil Fuels - A natural fuel that has been formed from the decayed remains of an organism.

API [American Petroleum Institute] - Americas largest trade institute for natural gas and oil.

What are they made from?

BioFuels are an alternative to petroleum that are made with a plant or abundant resource such as corn or algae. These resources are renewable and can be found naturally around the world. In the United States of America, the most common base used in BioFuels is corn since it is heavily grown in the upper midwest. In other regions, it's the same story. For example, in an article by Matthew Knight of CNN News, he states, “Brazilian sugar cane is the classic example of a type of biofuel that is now performing efficiently and competitively. They are alone among all the major biofuel feedstocks in being competitive at market prices.” The material varies depending on what is abundant, like sugarcane in Brazil, or cron in the US. According to Tom Ireland, author of Algal Biofuel In Bloom Or Dead In The Water?, Dry plant matter is the most abundant resource in the world, and it is perfect for producing ethanol. So as the main ingredient may differ, the main concept stays the same as scientists constantly move forward in producing the perfect alternative to petroleum.

How are they being used today?

Biofuels are slowly moving in to replace anything that petroleum previously powered. This range is constantly growing, from cars to power plants. Ivy Ashe, a writer for the Hawaii Tribune-Herald, claims that the most significant use for biofuels in the future will be to fuel airplanes. In 2014, United Airlines began to blend biofuels into their fuel supply and the yield resulted in a 60 percent reduction in greenhouse gasses. Biofuels were created in order to cut down on these greenhouse gasses, and make the earth cleaner than before. Current fuel sources, such as fossil fuels or electricity, produce a tremendous amount of pollution from start to finish. Tom Ireland, the author of “ALGAL BIOFUEL In Bloom Or Dead In The Water?” states that 25 percent of global carbon emissions come from transportation with fossil fuels alone. Carbon is by no means good for the environment in those quantities, and biofuels would be able to reduce this number. Sadly, Biofuels are not used enough at the moment to help reduce this number, and the earth is taking serious damage because of it.

Why aren't they more Common?

Biofuels may seem like the greatest thing on the planet, but for some, it could cause a lot of damage. Oil monopolies such as Saudi Arabia and Alaska despise biofuels because they pose to end the need for petroleum. “Oil refiners are reluctant to pave the way for blending more biofuel into gasoline and diesel, because that cuts into demand for the petroleum content in each gallon of fuel” stated Elizabeth Douglass, an author at Inside Climate News. When these huge companies hear that their product is being replaced, they will do anything and everything to keep their profits high, even if it isn't what is best for the rest of the world. Jan Koninckx, the Global Business Director for DuPont claimed in an interview with The Guardian, "Of course the [American Petroleum Institute] wants the mandates repealed because they know that as the production capacity for clean fuels increases, their monopoly is under threat". The mandates that she mentions are laws created by President George W. Bush that demand every gallon of gasoline is blended with ethanol in order to lower the reliance on imported fuel, and to bring more jobs to America. So ethanol is pretty common, you just don’t notice it; however, the percentage is still lower than it needs to be to display the full effect. Petroleum companies are dominating the industry and not allowing ethanol to grow and show its full potential.

What is being done to change this?

Although big oil industries create a significant roadblock for ethanol, there are other issues that are being dealt with as well. Ethanol is still in the development phase, and it still isn't capable of competing with petroleum yet. However, scientists are currently working on ways to make ethanol into the perfect alternative to traditional fuels. A local example of this is shown in an article by Lee Masterson titled “EPA Approves Gevo Biofuel Production”, which states that a company in Luverne, Minnesota, is currently producing a corn based ethanol that emits 50% less greenhouse gases than petroleum. More and more people are beginning to invest in this company, which allows for further development of the ethanol to someday make it enough to completely eliminate the need for fossil fuels. Keith Wiebe, the service chief in the Economic and Social Development Department at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations states in a CNN blog, “There is a lot of potential in second generation cellulosic technologies but they are not yet commercially viable but that point is coming closer every day.” What this means is that although biofuels are currently not capable of being a complete replacement of petroleum, scientists advance every day towards developing for the future.

What Does the future hold?

The future of ethanol is very bright, and it's approaching quickly. For comparison, according to TheNewEcologist.com, the United States produced 13.2 billion gallons of ethanol in 2010 alone. In the future, that number could potentially double, or even triple depending on what advancements are made. To think that the United States produces that much ethanol in a year is absurd, but to put it to scale, the world used 140 billion gallons of gasoline in that same year. In the future, biofuels could be used to power more than motor vehicles. In an article by Ivy Ashe of the Hawaii Tribune-Herald titled “Biofuel crops expected to play crucial role in Hawaii’s energy future” the author states, “The target was set in 2015: by 2045, 100 percent of Hawaii’s energy would come from renewable sources.” Now all of this energy would not be purely from biofuel; some would be other renewable energy sources such as wind or solar power, but just the idea of a state being powered by only renewable energy is enough to prove that biofuel has a future full of potential.

Works Cited

"ALGAL BIOFUEL In Bloom Or Dead In The Water?." Biologist 61.1: 20-23. Academic Search Premier. 1 February 2014, http://web.b.ebscohost.com/src_ic/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=25&sid=7fb8b87a-5204-4f85-a432-3f5810810e51%40sessionmgr101&hid=116

Ashe, Ivy. “Biofuel crops expected to play crucial role in Hawaii’s energy future”, Hawaii Tribune-Herald, 19 January 2017, http://hawaiitribune-herald.com/news/local-news/biofuel-crops-expected-play-crucial-role-hawaii-s-energy-future

“Ethanol Production and Consumption Stats in the U.S. (Infographic).” The New Ecologist, 29 December 2011, http://www.thenewecologist.com/2011/12/ethanol-production-stats-in-the-us/

Knight, Matthew. “Biofuels: What do the experts think?”, CNN, 13 June 2008, http://edition.cnn.com/2008/TECH/science/05/30/Biofuels.opinion/index.html?iref=intlOnlyonCNN

Masterson, Lee. “EPA Approves Gevo Biofuel Production (GEVO)”, Investopedia, 18 January 2017, http://www.investopedia.com/news/epa-approves-gevo-biofuel-production-gevo/?scrlybrkr=89b564ea#.

"Vietnam: Government Encourages use of Bio-Fuel." Asia News Monitor, Jul 04 2014, ProQuest Newsstand, https://search.proquest.com/docview/1542434199?accountid=42214.

Walshe, Sadhbh. “Big oil attacks ethanol industry with misleading claims.” The Guardian, 14 August 2013, https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/big-oil-attacks-ethanol-industry.

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Evan Holm
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