What are biofuels, advantages and disadvantages

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Currently, alternatives to conventional energy sources are becoming increasingly fashionable due to the amount of adverse effects they have on the planet. One of these alternative sources is biofuels, which already seems to carry a positive meaning in this field in its name. But do you know exactly what they are? What are they made of? What stage of development are they in right now? In Green Ecologist we reveal all the details you need to know in this article in which we tell you. What are biofuels, their advantages and its disadvantages.

What are biofuels

The biofuels, or also called biofuels, are mixtures of substances of organic origin that are used as fuels to obtain energy. They derive from biomass, that is, of organic matter that originates and accumulates during biological processes such as photosynthesis.

The advantage of biofuels is that, in addition to the fact that they can replace a part of the consumption of fossil fuels, reduce the impact produced by these, such as the levels of CO2 that are emitted into the atmosphere through its combustion. Really, the CO2 emission It is the same in both, the difference is that in the production and development process the materials that will produce the biomass for biofuels absorb this produced CO2.

To obtain biofuels, various plant species are used, such as:

  • The soy.
  • The corn.
  • Sugarcane.
  • Cassava.
  • Sunflower.
  • Eucalyptus
  • The Palm trees.
  • The pines.
  • Seaweed oil.

Classification and examples of biofuels

The biofuels can be classified into three large groups depending on the raw material used and the production process: first, second and third generation biofuels.

  • First generation biofuels: are those that have their origin in agricultural crops used to obtain products for human consumption such as sugar, starch, vegetable oil such as palm oil or animal fats. The production systems are simpler and cheaper, however, they have serious limitations as they could endanger the food supply, as well as biodiversity.
  • Second generation biofuels: arise due to the great demand for biofuels and are obtained from lignocellulosic biomass, that is, woody or fibrous in nature. For this reason, although they represent savings in emissions, their production is more expensive and complicated than that of the first generation. This group of biofuels is produced from crops that are not intended for food or that are considered waste such as used oil, stalks, fruit peels, casings or pods or wood chips.
  • Third generation biofuels: They also come from the biomass of inedible products or waste, but this category also includes microalgae. In this case, molecular biology techniques are used for its production.

Among the most popular, used and developed biofuels we can find:

  • The bioethanol: It is generated through the alcoholic fermentation of sugars found in some plant species such as sugar cane, beets or some cereal species.
  • The biodieselInstead, it is produced from vegetable oils such as rapeseed oil, soybeans, canola, and jatropha. Furthermore, these plant species are cultivated in order to be used as biodiesel.
  • Biopropanol or biobutanolThese two are less popular but the purpose of the research is to achieve their development for their use, together with bioethanol and biodiesel, against fossil fuels.

Advantages of biofuels

So far it seems that biofuels seem like good substitutes for our conventional fuels that harm our environment due to the large quantities handled. Next, we specify some of the advantages of biofuels:

  • The cost of biofuels will be lower than that of gasoline or diesel once the technology with which it is generated is available to a greater extent. In addition, the cost of raw materials will be practically zero as it is waste.
  • Production processes are more efficient; they consume and pollute less.
  • It is a much less limited source than fossil fuels, which take thousands of years to generate.
  • Employment is generated locally.
  • Carbon and sulfur emissions are reduced.
  • The amounts of garbage are decreasing, as much of it can be used in the production of these biofuels.
  • The level of safety is higher in terms of handling and storage compared to fossil fuels.

Disadvantages of biofuels

Not everything was going to be advantages. Like everything, biofuels also have their bad side; his most unknown face. In order not to give you a biased view on the matter, here are some of the reasons why, for many, these energy sources despite being renewable cannot be considered as “non-polluting”:

  • Because of the nitrogen fertilizers used in the fields, biofuels of plant origin can result in a increased nitrogen oxide emissions. In addition, this can lead to contamination of groundwater with nitrites and nitrates.
  • Biofuels provide less energy than fossil fuels in equal amounts, so they are needs much more raw material to equalize these energy levels.
  • Some authors consider that the use of crop fields for plant species destined for biofuel brings the fields of crops into play for human consumption, causing its price to rise.
  • By requiring larger cultivation areas, the loss of forest areas, CO2 consumers. Originally, the idea was to use the remains of agricultural activities, but like everything else, its encouragement led to the destruction of natural spaces to create these plantations.
  • As with all activities related to agriculture, there is a need for large amounts of water for irrigation of plant species.
  • During the production of biofuels, fossil fuels are used which, paradoxically, for the moment results in the balance of CO2 emissions being positive, also taking into account the deforestation that is added to the production chain.

If you want to read more articles similar to What are biofuels, advantages and disadvantages, we recommend that you enter our category of Renewable Energies.

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