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Biofuels are fuels that are produced from renewable biological resources, such as living organisms or food waste products. Examples are vegetable oils, waste cooking oils, animal fats, and tall oils. These are in contrast to fossil fuels, which form over a long period of time and are nonrenewable.


Since biofuels are any fuel that is derived from biomass, they can be either solid, liquid, or gaseous. Biofuels in the solid state have been in use since man discovered fire. Ancient people used wood to make fire for cooking and heating. Later, biofuels were used to produce electricity. When fossil fuels were discovered, the use of biofuels declined because fossil fuels can produce more energy.[1]

In the late 1800s, early manufacturers used oil derived from peanuts, hemp, corn and tallow. Rudolph Diesel used vegetable oil as a fuel source for his engine.[2] On August 10, 1893, he demonstrated the first use of peanut oil to run his engine. In 1897, he won the Grand Prix for his innovation at the World’s Exhibition Fair in Paris, France. Henry Ford, the founder of Ford, was another one of its supporters. He wanted his Model T to run on ethanol, a corn product fuel. However, because of the discovery of huge supplies of oil in some part of Texas and Pennsylvania, the price of petroleum went down and most cars started to use petroleum fuel which was much cheaper and more efficient.[1] The American industrialists of the 1930’s such as the Rockefellers, William Randolph Hurst, and Andrew Mellon focused on the developing petroleum industry and launched campaigns to discredit the use of hemp. This lead to a reduction of the biofuel industry.[3]

Biofuel Super Car

During World War II, fossil fuels were scarce. Demand for biofuels rose due to its increased use especially by the German and United States military. Germany invented various products like gasoline combined with alcohol that was derived from potatoes. Britain also used grain alcohol with petrol.[1]

In 1970, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) passed the Clean Air Act to regulate the emissions standards and fuel additives standard and to help develop cleaner-burning fuel.[2] During the period of 1973 through 1979, a serious fuel crisis hit various countries because of geopolitical conflicts. Therefore, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting countries (OPEC) cut down exports to the non OPEC nations.[1] The 1973-1974 Arab oil embargoes and the 1978-1979 Iranian Revolution caused a decrease in domestic oil production and caused the price of oil to go up. According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration, U.S. crude oil imports were cut by 30 percent during the embargo and the world price of oil went up to $35 from $14 per barrel at the beginning of 1979. Finally, in 1983 the price dropped between $28 and $29 per barrel after the world price stabilized. In August 1982, the first International Conference on Plan and Vegetable Oil was held in Fargo, North Dakota. This conference dealt with matters ranging from fuel costs and the effect of vegetable oil to fuel additives and extraction methods. In 1990, the Clean Air Act placed more restrictions on vehicle emissions. In 1992, the EPA passed the Energy Policy Act (EPACT). This act increased the amount of alternative fuel used by the U.S. government transportation fleet in order to reduce the use of foreign oil.[2]


Biofuel harvest

There are two generations of biofuels distinguished by the plants used and their yield; the techniques used to process them; and the anticipated products. First generation biofuels are made from part of the plants such as sunflowers, rapeseed, root, sugar beet or wheat. Only the sugar, oil or starch contained from the plants is used as source to make fuels. Since it requires only part of it to make it, there are always left out waste matter such as spent grains, bran, oil cake, etc. However, the byproduct that is waste matter also can use for animal feed or energy use to generate heat or electricity. Second generation biofuels are made from entire biomass of plant. Common examples for biomass are whole plant, consisting mainly of cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin. These sources are the major component of most plant and animal organic matter. The advantage of using second generation is because the entire biomass of the plant is used. As a result, it produces more amount overall production per unit of raw material and generates almost no byproduct. It also requires fewer numbers of plants and lessens the risk of reducing certain plants and livestock. Lastly, second generation provides us more wide range of crops, including woody plants (trees and shrubs) and organic waste (plant and animal) to make biolfuels.[4]

  • ETBE is an oxygenated compound produced by a reaction when ethanol and isobutene are present in almost equal quantities. However, isobutene is derived from fossil material and is considered as a product of petroleum companies. Forty-seven percent of volume of bio-ETBE and bioethanol used in to make up biofuel. Advantage of using ETBE is that it can easily mix with petrol and can be add into it anytime. When it mixes with petrol it boost up petrol octane levels.
  • Pure Vegetable oil is produced from oil-bearing plants by pressure, extraction or other methods of releasing.
  • Biodiesel is combined with ninety parts of vegetable oil such as rapeseed, sunflower or soya) and ten parts of methanol which is called vegetable oil methyl esters (VOME).[1][dead link]

  • Bio-ethanol is one of most well known as a biofuel. It is manufactured from biomass such as sugar beet and cereals (wheat, barley, etc.) or the biodegradable fraction of animal waste.


Main Article: Ethanol

Ethanol is grain alcohol which is a high octane, clean, burning, renewable fuel that is use as motor fuel. Its production and use give benefits to the United States and its citizen. Because ethanol is made from crops such as corn, farmer can get a benefit and the money is cycling in United States. It also decreases the amount of fuel that use to transport the gasoline from foreign countries. Therefore, the price is less. It also reduces harmful auto emission. However, unblended one-hundred percent ethanol is not used as a motor fuel but it combines with unleaded gasoline in certain percents. The most common blends is E10. E represents ethanol and the number represents the percent of ethanol combine with unleaded gasoline.

E10 - 10% ethanol and 90% unleaded gasoline-It is most common approved fuel that is used for many model of vehicle sold in the U.S. Many automakers recommend its use because of high performance, clean-burning characteristics. Seventy percent of the U.S. gasoline market uses combined ethanol with gasoline and most of them are E10 blend.

E85 - 85% ethanol and 15% unleaded gasoline-E85 is an alternative fuel for flexible fuel vehicles (FFVs). There are more than 6 million FFVs on America and each year more and more FFVs are coming out. More E85 pumps are installed in nation. However, when there is no E85 at gas station, FFVs can run by from straight gasoline to any ethanol blend up to eighty-five percent.

Mid-range blends of ethanol: between E10 and E85- Like E10 and E85, there is mid-range blends such as E20, E30, or E40. The higher percentage of ethanol that could be usedin standard automobiles can decrease the dependence on foreign countries’ petroleum. The new search shows the mid-ranged ethanol blends can provides better fuel efficiency than unleaded gasoline. The research suggests that there is an “optimal blend level” of ethanol and gasoline which is E20 and E30. These two can provides vehicles better mileage than predicted mile per gallon.[5]

Pros and Cons

Biofuel Life-Cycle
The major benefit of using biofuel is the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Biodiesel fuels are vegetable oils from naturally grown plants. Therefore it is naturally renewable and unlimited source. This releases nontoxic and cleaner emission which is 60 to 100 percent less than greenhouse gas emission compared with that of petroleum diesel. [2] This effect occurs because the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) that they absorbs during their growing time is the same amount of CO2 is realized when the fuel emit the gas. Therefore, the CO2 keep recycling and doesn’t produce any extra CO2. This helps not to promote global warming. However, it does not mean that there wouldn’t be any other CO2 produced because during the production of the fertilizer that is used in fertilizing the field in which the oil crops are grown it produces CO2. Also the solvent extraction of the oil, refining, drying and transporting the biodiesel require energy from electricity or fuel and causes pollution. So using only biodiesel cannot stop the pollution.[6]

Biofuels are easier to use than the any other renewable energy such as solar that needs special plates to convert sun light to energy, wind that needs special fan to again wind. It does not need any special equipment or a modification in all engines. It does not cause complex change in any automobiles. The vehicle is ready to go when you fill your fuel tank when biodiesel combine with conventional petroleum diesel. However, since biofuel is not common fuel recently, there is only few ethanol or biodiesel pumps in gas station. Therefore, it is hard to attain.

Biofuels use more energy than they can produce. Ethanol only puts out about 1.5 units of energy for every unit of energy used in processing it. In addition, biodiesel even has an output of 3.2 units of energy to every unit of energy used on its production. This means that the traditional fuel like gasoline needs 20 percent energy based on what it can provide.

Therefore, they would be a lot of biomass to produce the amount of biofuels that we need to use compare to gasoline but there is not enough crops to make it. To fill up and to keep maintaining the amount of biomass we want, it requires extensive lands and forests that need to be developed and it might take away some animal’s and plant’s habitats.

There is no instant weaning on conventional petroleum diesel. It is almost impossible to replace it totally but it needs to decrease. Therefore, we still need to use other renewable source of energy such as solar, wind, etc. As the science develop, there will be someday, all the cars runs by biofuels which give us environmental advantage.[7]

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