Category Archives: Biofuel

The Latest Non-Fossil Fuel Transportation Option

Scientists are constantly working on a non-fossil fuel transportation option. With America’s high dependence on traveling by car, there is a reason to believe they will find successful options within the next few years. The demand is certainly there so science is such to catch up eventually.

One of the newest methods involves recycling all the carbon dioxide wasted in the production of biofuels. This would make the process more efficient and scientists believe it would offer enough fuel to power cars all over America.

The hybrid hydrogen-carbon process could essentially make diesel fuel from coal or biomass, without putting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Because biofuels can lose CO2 into the atmosphere during the conversion process of making them, it can be an inefficient process. The new process allows for the wasted carbon dioxide to create more fuel. The hydrogen used is gleaned from water using non-fossil fuel energy (like solar energy).

It’s hopeful that while cars would still be generating CO2 emissions, the CO2 would be reabsorbed and used in the process once again, balancing the cycle of CO2. The process is a much cleaner version than the other coal options. In addition, it offers things electricity and hydrogen alone cannot provide.

The only drawback to this plan is storage. For large trains, planes and cars it would be difficult to store. The driving distances would be limited as well and the energy costs associated with this process could be very expensive.

Overall, there is hope in science finding a viable solution for the environment and for the needs and demands of driving Americans.

A Comparison of Biofuels

Many energy experts believe biofuels are the future of energy. Thus, millions of dollars are being currently spent on research and manufacturing of biofuels. Below you can find the most commonly researched biofuels and details about each.

Corn: With America producing much more corn than it can possibly use each year, corn makes an ideal ingredient for energy. With an input/output ratio of 1:1.3, it does seem likely corn could contribute to a greener environment. Corn ethanol can be produced for approximately $1.09 per gallon and offers 22% less greenhouse emissions than gasoline.

Sugarcane: Sugarcane seems like a terrific biofuel option, with an input/output ratio of 1:8, which means only 1 volume of fossil fuel is required to make 8 volumes of this biofuel replacement. Cane ethanol is most often produced in Brazil for approximately $0.87 per gallon and offers 56% less greenhouse emissions than gasoline.

Cellulose: Cellulose carries the lowest ratio of these biofuels at 1:36. However, it’s still very much in the research phases. Some common sources include paper pulp, household waste, forestry waste and leftover crop portions. While cellulose is not currently being produced as a biofuel, it would potentially offer 91% less greenhouse emissions than gasoline.

Biodiesel: Currently produced in Germany, biodiesel offers a ratio of 1:2.5 and offers 68% less greenhouse emissions than gasoline. Produced from canola, Germany produced .5 billion gallons in 2006 alone.

Overall, all of the biofuels have their own benefits. While some are further along in regards to manufacturing and research, others are just hitting the scene as possibilities.

Did Henry Ford Have It Right With Ethanol Fuel?

When Henry Ford built the Model T, he designed it to run on ethanol fuel claiming it was indeed the “fuel of the future”.

However, large oil companies felt differently and thus oil was used for automobile power. Ethanol is a clear liquid with a somewhat pleasant odor. Defined as being ethyl alcohol or grain alcohol, it’s actually fit to drink in some forms.

As a motor fuel, it’s high-performance and has many benefits. This fuel cuts down on the amount of exhaust emissions allowing less poison to be released into the environment. In addition, it’s made from natural products.

Ethanol is created by a fermenting and distilling process. Sugar and starch crops like sugarcane, maize, sorghum, wheat, corn, fruit and vegetable waste can all be used.

The benefits of ethanol are abundant and include the following:

1) Ethanol is a renewable fuel made from natural products.

2) Manufacturing and burning ethanol doesn’t affect global warming in any way.

3) Ethanol is biodegradable without harmful environmental effects.

4) Ethanol reduces poisonous emissions including carbon monoxide levels, hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxide emissions, Volatile Organic Compounds, benzene, butadiene and sulphur dioxide.

Countries like Brazil are operating highly on ethanol for auto power. Their successful use of ethanol is prompting more countries to indeed consider the possibilities of this “fuel of the future”.

Thus, auto makers are encouraging buyers to consider ethanol for fuel and are even allowing ethanol powered vehicles to fall under their warranty guidelines. If the world operated on ethanol, there could be a drastic improvement in the overall environment.

The Federal Energy Policy On Ethanol

Some people may wonder what the government is doing in regards to energy. While it may not seem much is being done with the constant arguing over off-shore drilling between the Presidential nominees, there are some very attractive plans in place.

One of the major things the federal government is doing to address global warming is the promotion of ethanol fuel. Ethanol is a clear liquid with a somewhat pleasant odor. Defined as being ethyl alcohol or grain alcohol, it’s actually fit to drink in some forms.

As a motor fuel, it’s high-performance and has many benefits. This fuel cuts down on the amount of exhaust emissions allowing less poison to be released into the environment.

In addition, it’s made from natural products. Ethanol is created by a fermenting and distilling process. Sugar and starch crops like sugarcane, maize, sorghum, wheat, corn, fruit and vegetable waste can all be used.

The government is making ethanol a more attractive option by offering financial support and incentives to those who choose to utilize it. With the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, the Jobs Creation Act of 2004 and the Energy Policy Act of 2005 the consumption of this fuel has risen.

Currently, the United States uses a little over 5 billion gallons of ethanol each year. However, the government hopes the country will be using over 30 billion gallons each year by 2015.

To help corporations make the switch, the government has given out grants to businesses who are willing to use ethanol fuel or who are willing to produce ethanol.

Since farmer-owned cooperatives produce more than half of the nation’s ethanol, farmers can automatically benefit as well. These incentives can ensure the stability of the agriculture market for hundreds of years.

Biodiesel Facts and Myths

Today’s politicians and scientists are throwing around the word “biodiesel” like candy. Most voters are unaware of the actual meaning of the word, automatically assuming biodiesel is an environmentally friendly solution.

Thus, there are some misconceptions associated with this form of energy. The best way to address biodiesel is by looking at the facts and myths associated with the term.

A biofuel is a naturally occurring source that relies on dead plant matter, just as fossil fuel relies on dead matter. After the matter has been dead for a while, a host of chemical processes take place. Through these processes, the biodiesel is created and ready to be used as energy producing fuel.

Sure, biodiesel technically comes from the land. Thus, it seems like a natural and positive possibility. However, there is a major concern regarding biofuel and the environment. Since any type of plant material can be used for this particular process, it’s assumed plants need to be grown.

Thus, after they are grown, harvested and converted to energy it, ecological problems can arise. The risk of damaging the natural food supply is quite high, considering the large amounts of energy consumed each year by the country.

Environmentalists warn that deforestation, soil erosion, water wasting and food shortages could occur naturally as a result of using biodiesel instead of fossil fuels. While some think it would help the environment others see that it could naturally disrupt the flow of nature and damage it extremely.

Scientists are still working on a controlled way to utilize the major benefits of biodiesel while limiting it’s destructive capabilities.

Understanding Biofuel

A term getting a lot of airtime these days is “biofuel.” While it gives the notion of being an environmentally friendly solution, there are some misconceptions associated with this form of energy.

Understanding biofuel properly requires dealing with facts and myths.

Some of them of course are brought on by marketers who are sensing a shift in public perception and are getting ready to position themselves and their companies to gain.

In its most basic form, a biofuel is a naturally occurring source that relies on dead plant matter. Fossil fuel, on the other hand, also relies on dead matter. But, this kind of matter has had to have been dead for a very long time to permit a host of chemical processes to take place, readying it for use as energy producing fuel.

The unfortunate misconception that biofuels are going to be the answer to the current energy crisis is propagated by those who are blinded by the term “bio.”

Considering any kind of plant material may become biofuel, it naturally follows that such plants must be grown, tended, harvested, and then converted to energy. This raises ecological problems as well as questions with respect to a secure food supply.

Deforestation, soil erosion, water wasting, food shortages and a host of other problems are estimated to occur if there was a serious shift from fossil fuels to biofuels.

While understanding biofuels does not make the debate any easier, it does help to clear up some misconceptions and therefore adequately weigh all options currently open and also opening up in the future.

The Top Four Renewable Power Options

Renewable Energy is energy created from resources that are regenerative - or renewable - meaning they cannot be depleted. These resources are safe for our environment and produce energy without the harmful pollutants and emissions associated with fossil-fuels.

Renewable energy utilizes natural cycles and systems such as sunlight, wind, tides, and geothermal heat to create energy in a form ready for human consumption. These sources differ from fossil fuels in that they can be replenished, and their use produces little, if any, greenhouse gases.

Renewable energy is not that cheap compared to conventional fossil fuel generating plants. The only real alternative to fossil fuels is nuclear energy. Renewable energy is naturally intermittent. Hydrogen provides a means to store renewable energy for times when the sun doesn't shine or the wind doesn't blow.

BioFuels

Biofuel is solid, liquid, or gas fuel made from recently dead biological material, most commonly plants. Biofuel can be theoretically produced from any organic carbon source. The most common by far is photosynthetic plants that capture solar energy. Many different plants and plant-derived materials are used for biofuels. The most widely recognized agri-fuel is corn, used to create ethanol.

Biomass energy is generated by the decay of large masses of plant or animal material or waste which forms methane and other combustible gases. These gases contain chemical energy, which when burned can be used to generate electricity.

Biomass and other combustible renewables and waste account for 11 percent, and nuclear energy accounts for 6.8 percent. Biomass, or the use of biologically derived materials for energy generation, is also considered a renewable-energy source and is carbon-neutral. Agricultural wastes are currently being explored as potential biomass feedstock.

Biomass pyrolysis gas and methane can be burned in reciprocating or gas turbine engines and the heat output readily integrated. Biodiesel and Ethanol production facilities can also become more feasible with integration into this system. The contributions from biofuels are expected to nearly quadruple, growing from 0.5 quads in 2006 to 1.87 quads in 2030.

Hydro

The power of moving water, generated by gravity, whether from damns or tidal waves, can also be considered a renewable resource. Hydro (moving water) accounts for 2.3 percent with all other renewable resources meeting .5 (five-tenths) of a percent of the world's total energy appetite.

Solar

Solar is the most popular renewable energy source in the USA. Solar electric (PV) systems typically do not require maintenance, other than periodic cleaning of the solar panels. PV panel life is typically 25 years. There are a variety of technologies that have been developed to take advantage of solar energy. These include concentrating solar power systems, passive solar heating and daylighting, photovoltaic systems, solar hot water, and solar process heat and space heating and cooling.

Wind

Wind turbines are usually constructed in the windiest areas, although there are many locations throughout the United States and the rest of the world that are suitable for wind power production. Wind energy is an intermittent source since wind does not blow at consistent speeds and times. Wind turbines use blades to collect the wind's kinetic energy. The wind flows over the airfoil shaped blades causing lift, like the effect on airplane wings, triggering them to turn.

The shortfall in the world’s energy needs can only be made up by renewable sources such as wind, solar, and geothermal, along with the other non-fossil, non-renewable fuel sources of energy, nuclear.

However, renewable energy sources will be unable to satisfy the predicted increased energy needs and certainly will not be able to replace fossil fuels entirely, even for electricity production alone.

Pros & Cons of Biofuels

For the last few years, and especially recently, the production of biofuels has been on the rise and it doesn’t seem like it will curb at any time soon. However, the question of whether this is ecologically best choice remains to be answered. Personally, I think there are more negatives than positives for these resources to be our best bet. So inspired by and article in “Fortune”, I decided to put forward a list of most popular biofuels and their pros and cons for you to decide it for yourself.

CORN ETHANOL
Pros:

Compared with oil it may help decrease the gas emissions as well as reduce the world’s dependence on oil. It also promotes the building of biofuels infrastructure.
Cons:
The production of ethanol requires a lot of energy, which doesn’t quite cover the energy efficiency demand. The recent boom in corn demand has increased the prices of corn bushels from $2 last year to $5 this year, which means an increased cost of everything from beef to soft drinks and most of your groceries. Farmers devote more land to corn and less to other grains, which raises the prices of corn worldwide. Over 450 lbs of corn are needed to produce 25 gallons of ethanol—enough to feed a person for a year!

BIODIESEL
Pros:
It is estimated that biodiesel will reduce gas emissions 40%-80%. It also provides 90% more energy than is required to produce it.
Cons:
The demand for biodiesel has led to an increasing number of Amazon and South East Asia forests being cut down and replaced with palm tree plantations, which released huge amounts of greenhouses gasses into the atmosphere and, in itself, is more of a danger than solution. Luckily, the practice has been limited.

SUGAR-CANE ETHANOL
Pros:

Sugar-cane generates more ethanol per acre than corn and it needs less energy to produce, therefore is regarded as a more eco-friendly than corn ethanol. The increased demand for sugar ethanol hasn’t raised the food prices since sugar is not a basic ingredient in food production like corn.
Cons:
Growing cane requires a certain type of climate, namely warm and rainy, which limits its potential for being a global source of fuel.

CELLULOSIC ETHANOL
Pros:
The production of cellulosic ethanol doesn’t involve switching the use of cropland from growing food to growing biofuels since it is made by breaking down wood chips, farm waste and nonfood crops, such as grass.
Cons:
It requires more energy to produce ethanol from nonfood plants than corn or sugar cane. The production of cellulosic ethanol is still expensive and the process of making ethanol from nonfood plants is difficult.

ALGAL BIOFUEL
Pros:
Since it is a fastest growing plant on the planet, algae can produce up to 30 times more energy per acre than other biofuel sources. Moreover, a promising combination of byproducts can be made into algal-biofuels, which may contribute to their cost effectiveness.
Cons:
Unfortunately, the biomass for making algal biofuel does not yet exist and it has to be grown. Harvesting it is quite expensive, thus cost effective production of this type of biofuel is still years away.

Source: Environment

Algae Oil can Provide Power

I just heard (for the first time) of algae oil, having power producing capabilities. I was watching the news Sunday morning, and saw a story about a guy named Glenn Kurtz in El Paso Tx.

He says that he can produce 100,000 gallons of fuel per acre per year. Compare that to corn at only 20 to 30 gallons of fuel per acre per year!

Moving our country towards corn for fuel is just plain stupid, and most rational people already know that corn is not the answer, but this sounds like it has real potential.

Even better, you can grow it in the desert, in otherwise productive land. He claims that if we took land about 1/10th the size of New Mexico, and devoted it to algae production, we could meet all the transportation needs of the US.

I found a three part seies of interviews with the guy, and here they are...

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Here's part two -

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And finally, part three...

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Wow, amazing stuff - but will this really come to fruition? What do you think?