Know any kids who are interested in science? At Rogue Valley Clean Cities Coalition, we want to provide you with educational information for your youngsters or to pass along to any teachers you may know!
Here is an easy Q&A you can share with a young, budding scientist to help him or her learn more about biofuels!
What is biofuel?
You know we use gasoline to power our cars. Fuels like gasoline are made from a thick, gooey substance called petroleum that is pumped from deep in the ground. That petroleum formed when organic material (plants and animals) that lived on Earth thousands of years ago died and decayed. There’s only so much petroleum in our earth, and oil companies are always searching for new locations to drill for oil.
Biofuel is also made from organic material, but the organic materials used to make biofuel are plants grown today—not thousands of years ago. Ethanol is a kind of biofuel we mix with gasoline to power our cars. Some of the common kinds of plants used to make ethanol are wheat, corn, and sugar cane. Once the farmer harvests the crops, they are put in sealed containers that allow very little oxygen in. This helps the bacteria digest or “decompose” the plants. This process of decomposition is called “fermentation.” Next, a heating and cooling process separates the ethanol from the rest of the material.
Is Biodiesel a biofuel?
Yes, but it is produced differently than biofuels like ethanol. Biodiesel is made from the fats or grease from plants and animals. One common product used to make biodiesel is vegetable oil—the same kind of vegetable oil you might have in your kitchen cabinet! Manufacturers of biodiesel use chemical reactions to transform the vegetable oil or other fatty material into biodiesel. Biodiesel is often mixed with regular diesel fuel to make a blend used in cars and trucks.
Why is biofuel important to me?
It’s important for everyone to know about biofuel and make good choices about using it when possible because it is a renewable energy source. That means that as we use the energy, we can make more. Remember, there’s only so much oil in the ground, but farmers can grow more crops to make more biofuel.
Even though it is renewable, we still don’t want to waste biofuel energy. Growing crops uses valuable water and takes up land. Plus, if too many farmers grew corn to make biofuel, there might not be enough food for us to buy in the grocery store! As with anything, it’s important to make good choices and only use what we need.
Want to learn more about biofuels and bioenergy? If you’re a parent or a teacher, click here for a fun coloring and activity book produced by the U.S. Department of Energy!
Learn more about how you can use biofuels in your day-to-day life and your business from the Rogue Valley Clean Cities Coalition. The Coalition works to enhance the livability and sustainability of Rogue Valley residents.