Because of the negative environmental impact of producing and using fossil fuels as well as the rising oil prices, scientists are trying to find an alternative source of fuel. And that is how the term green fuel was conceived.
Green fuel, which is more commonly called as biofuel, is distilled from animal and plant materials or biomass. Scientists believe that this kind of fuel is more environment-friendly to produce and use than most conventional types of fuels that are popularly used today. Biomass is normally converted to fuel in three ways, namely chemical conversion, thermal conversion and biochemical conversion. The resulting fuel can be in liquid, solid or gas form.
Some of the commonly used biofuel are ethanol, biodiesel and biogas.
Ethanol is seen as a green alternative for petrol. It is made by fermenting crops such as sugarcane and soybean. There is also cellulosic ethanol which uses hulls, stalks, wood by products, and other plant materials that are no longer fit for human or animal consumption. One advantage of this fuel is that it does not produce pollutants such as lead emissions and sulfur dioxide when used. One drawback is that if pure ethanol is used, it may cause damage to the engine because of its corrosive effect. Currently, the safe ratio is ten percent ethanol and 90 percent petrol.
Biodiesel, on the other hand, is considered to be a good alternative for petroleum diesel fuels. This kind of fuel is made from animal fats and vegetable oils. Common sources include palm oil, sun flower, soybean, canola, cottonseeds and rapeseed. Currently, it is used as a diesel additive to improve lubricity, but some auto manufacturers are already modifying their cars so that they can run from pure biodiesel. Additionally, some cars now run using recycled oil from restaurants as fuel. One of its advantages is its low hydrocarbon and carbon monoxide emissions.
Biogas is a methane gas produced through the anaerobic digestion of organic or biodegradable wastes or energy crops. This process yields a solid byproduct called digestate which can be used as fertilizer or biofuel.
While many people are convinced that biofuel is a good alternative to fossil fuel because it is more economical and environment-friendly, there are also detractors who believe that biofuel may just be as destructive to the environment as other fuel sources. They say that during the processing of this kind of fuel, a considerable amount of pollution is also created. Aside from that, there are also those who believe that continuous production of biofuel may lead to scarcity of certain food products because they are used for fuel production instead of for human or animal consumption. Other concerns are connected to soil erosion, deforestation and loss of biodiversity as a result of planting biomass for oil production. These arguments may have some bases which scientists need to take into consideration.
Amidst the arguments between the advantages and drawbacks of biofuel, one thing is for sure: there is a need to find an alternative energy source that will answer the economic and environmental problems brought about by the fuel we now currently used.
Published: June 20, 2013