Most of us are familiar with traditional petroleum products such as gasoline and diesel. Petroleum products, or fossil fuels, are made from organic material that died and decomposed in the ground millions of years ago. There is a finite amount of source material in our Earth, and much of that is located in foreign countries, which creates challenges both financially and politically.
While biofuel is also made from organic materials, it is produced from recently harvested plants or the waste product of animals, called “biomass.” A few examples of organic material that can be used for the production of biofuel include algae, corn, sugar cane, soybeans, coffee beans, and manure. In this manner, biofuels are a renewable energy source because these substances may be grown, harvested, and replanted. The supply of biofuel is far from finite.
Of course, there are some limitations on the production of biofuel. Producers of biofuel must be conscious of available land to grow the crops, water availability for irrigation, and strain on the natural growth of plants and animals in the area. Without an appropriate production strategy, excessive planting and harvesting for biofuel could have negative impacts on food prices or water supply for consumers. According to the US Department of Energy in 2017, the United States produced 58% of the world’s supply of ethanol, a biofuel often produced from corn.
Why should I choose biofuel?
There are many reasons to use biofuel. We’ve already discussed how the source material for biofuel is renewable. We can grow crops or raise animals right here in the United States to keep production local and reduce the impact of world politics on supply and subsequent pricing. Next, biofuels burn cleaner resulting in a reduction of carbon monoxide emissions. Not only does that help reduce the greenhouse effect, it also means the air is much cleaner for us to breathe. For those of us in Southern Oregon, keeping those outdoors healthy and enjoyable is a huge benefit to our quality of life and tourism dollars!
Is biofuel the “magic bullet” of energy conservation?
Even though it is highly unlikely that biofuels will replace petroleum-based products entirely, our nation’s leaders have recognized the importance of diversifying our energy source consumption. The costs of producing biofuel are higher than producing petroleum-based fuels, and overproduction of biofuel can create issues for the environment and our economy. In December 2007, President Bush signed the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) to protect our ability to have adequate fuel available and to utilize sources that are healthy for our environment. The goal of EISA is to increase biofuel production to 36 billion gallons per year by 2022.
Want to know how you can use more biofuels in your home and work?
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.