, North America
, Northeast Asia
, United States
, Climate Change and Clean Energy
, Climate Change and Natural Resources
, Energy Security and Policy
, Oil and Energy
Biofuels are derived from biomass. They differ from fossil fuels in that they are derived from renewable sources, including crops, animal waste and some forms of ‘rubbish’. There are three forms of biofuels. The first is ethanol which is the biofuel substitute for gasoline. It comes mainly from wheat crops and sugar beet, corn, soybeans and sugarcane in the US and South America. Biodiesel is the biofuel substitute for diesel. It derives from oilseed based crops, mostly oilseed rape (OSR) in the UK, and palmoil in South East Asia. These two forms of biofuels are first generation biofuels, meaning they are derived from raw materials that can be used in food production. Biogas is the biofuel substitute for natural gas. It derives from organic waste materials including animal waste and waste generated from municipal, commercial and industrial sources through the process of anaerobic digestion.
There are several arguments for using biofuels in place of fossil fuels. They are renewable; biofuels offer the potential for long-term, relatively cheap, secure energy supplies. Biofuels contribute significantly less to greenhouse gas emissions in their production and use than oil or natural gas. Analysts argue Biofuels have a positive impact on the US economy, in terms of job creation, lightening the load on the current trade deficit, and putting a downward pressure on world oil prices. Biofuels have the potential to promote sustainable international developments. Biofuel development spurs agricultural investment in developing countries, raising the prices of most commodity crops and reducing the need for subsidies, and bringing modern energy services to more people in rural areas.
However, many critics of biofuel cite studies into their adverse land-use impacts. One issue is that fuel crops use land that could otherwise be used for food production, and in a world with massive food supply shortages in many regions, this becomes a moral and political dilemma. Additionally, because many times the land used for fuel crops require clearing forest, which is a natural carbon sink, the direct reduction in carbon emissions by burning biofuel is outweighed by the land clearing needed to support their feedstock production. Therefore, it is argued that biofuels do not deliver lower emissions per unit of energy than petroleum-based fuels because they won’t solve the problem of fuel crops displacing either food crops or forests.
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