It may produce 100 gallons of the fuel out of one season's crop. Renewability Is an Advantage It takes a very long time for fossil fuels to be produced. After all, a better harvest would reduce prices and ensure there's enough corn or soybeans on hand to feed and fuel the world, right? Biofuels are an alternative to fossil fuels (oil, natural gas, and coal). Required fields are marked *. Easier availability of biomass, its low cost, and cheaper technologies involved mean producing bioenergy is cheaper when compared to most energy sources, especially fossil fuels. What is biomass? Algae can be formed in ponds or tanks on land or out at sea. But genetically modified crops have accidentally created unwanted and sometimes threatening traits like what happened during primary tests of a modified strain of corn. The oil in their seeds is pressed out, filtered and converted to fuel using a chemical process. There are some complicating aspects about disadvantages of biofuels that we should look at. Biofuels may emit lower carbon footprints but the process involved in the production of these fuels largely depends on oil and water. Corrections? Many critics express concerns about the scope of the expansion of certain biofuels because of the economic and environmental costs associated with the refining process and the potential removal of vast areas of arable land from food production. Disadvantages of Waste Management: We have now seen the merits of waste management in detail. Biofuels each have their own set of benefits and drawbacks. When they are used as fuel, they leave gummy residue in the engine. But since many popular biofuel crops, such as corn and soybeans, are also popular food sources for much of the world, it stands to reason that the problems related to monoculture could get much worse as consumers demand more biofuel. But that price quickly reaches consumers. You may think that biofuels are used mainly in transport, but thats not all. If more people turn to biofuels, a country can diminish its dependence on fossil fuels. Utilizing our garbage may help keep flora and fauna healthy, resulting in a healthier ecosystem. Biofuels require agricultural land which is already limited. This is a serious contra argument to consider especially with climate change already shifting our ability to grow crops in certain areas. Biofuel Disadvantages: In the creation of first generation biofuels, huge amounts of land are needed. The regional nature of high-producing plants such as palm oil means that certain parts of the world are agricultural gold mines: Biofuel demand motivates plantations to expand quickly. In many cases, biofuels can be produced from locally available resources. Biofuel production utilizing food crops such as corn can drastically change the worlds access to cheap food. Certain crops will grow better in certain regions and may not grow at all in others. Additionally, using crops for biofuels can also lead to a decrease in the availability of food, as well as an increase in the cost of food. Soil, groundwater and air pollution. Overuse or inappropriate application can leave excess fertilizer in the soil, which then washes through regional watersheds and into streams, rivers, lakes and underground aquifers. Biofuels can require significant amounts of water for irrigation and processing, which can lead to water depletion and competition with other water uses, including even water for households, or for food production. Researchers are exploring techniques to genetically engineer less thirsty crops. Although the creation of biofuels produces carbon dioxide as a byproduct, it is often used to grow the plants that are converted into fuel. In the United States the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 mandated the use of 136 billion litres (36 billion gallons) of biofuels annually by 2022, more than a sixfold increase over 2006 production levels. As a renewable energy source, plant-based biofuels in principle make little net contribution to global warming and climate change; the carbon dioxide (a major greenhouse gas) that enters the air during combustion will have been removed from the air earlier as growing plants engage in photosynthesis. Lower carbon emissions make them a safer alternative to preserve atmospheric quality and lower air pollution. The ragged stripes stretching from east to west are growing zones: regions where water supply, temperature and sunlight make hospitable climates for certain types of plants. Farmers of corn, soybeans and cotton -- all potential biofuel sources -- are increasingly planting genetically modified versions of those plants [source: United States Department of Agriculture]. Additionally, the amount of water used in biofuel production is also affected by the specific farming practices used. Another way in which biofuel production can compete with food production is through the use of food crops, such as corn, as feedstocks for biofuels rather than spending resources on processing corn for human consumption. Synfuels still remain more expensive to produce than conventional fuels, mostly because more research, development and investment are necessary to make production economically viable. Biofuel is produced from renewable resources and relatively less-flammable than fossil diesel. Advanced gasification works by thermochemically transforming waste feedstocks using temperatures in excess of 700 and a highly controlled supply of oxygen or steam without using combustion. IATA believes that by 2020 we could see 3%-4% of fuel comprised of second generation biofuels, which is made from biomass, agricultural residues or waste, rather than from the oil crops used for first generation biofuels. Jan. 31, 2007. Biofuel Biomass is the only renewable energy source that can be converted into liquid biofuels such as ethanol and biodiesel. The fourth generation of biofuels includes electro fuels and solar fuels. November 2007. It is also important to consider the full life cycle of biofuels, from production to end-use to ensure that they are used in the most sustainable and efficient manner possible. A 2009 study suggests that, in the rush to produce enough corn-based ethanol to meet federal alternative energy requirements, biofuel demand is already putting stress on fresh water supplies in the Great Plains and central Southwest [source: McKenna]. According to some estimates, expansion by Indonesian palm oil plantations caused the vast majority of that nation's deforestation in the late '80s and '90s. The development of a biofuels industry can have both positive and negative economic impacts, depending on the specific circumstances. Can Renewable Energies Solve the Grave Problem of Climate Change? For the billions of people who live on only a few dollars per day, even a small increase in food prices could put their access to proper nutrition at risk. You can email the site owner to let them know you were blocked. Biofuels burn clean, emit significantly fewer greenhouse gases, and are entirely biodegradable. Its worth noting that the negative effects of biofuels can be mitigated by adopting appropriate policies and regulations, such as implementing sustainable land use practices, supporting research and development of advanced biofuels, and promoting the use of biofuels in a way that doesnt compete with food production. For example, bioethanol, which is produced from plant matter from corn, sugarcane or rapeseed, can be blended with gasoline to create a fuel called E10, which contains 10 percent of bioethanol and 90 percent of gasoline. In this respect, ethanol made from corn represents a relatively small energy gain; the energy gain from sugarcane is greater and that from cellulosic ethanol or algae biodiesel could be even greater. This fuel is made from the decomposition of organic matter. Their main perk is that they are produced from organic materials which replenish seasonally. Biodiesel, which has found greatest acceptance in Europe, is used in diesel engines and usually blended with petroleum diesel fuel in various percentages. An unfortunate disadvantage of biogas today is that the systems used in the production of biogas are not efficient. Restored and gently maintained land will yield enough biomass for biofuel production at lower need for synthetic substances, such as pesticides or fungicides. Web. University of California, Berkeley. Advantages and disadvantages of renewable energy. While the advantages of biomass energy are plenty, there are also some shortcomings, including: 1. Disadvantages of Biofuels. Except providing new livelihood opportunities for local families, they could also represent a sustainable and innovative option that will contribute to rural development. When biofuels are burned, they produce significantly less carbon output and fewer toxins than carbon fuels. The organic material that makes biofuels is made of carbon dioxide absorbed by plants from the atmosphere as they grew. The first generation biofuels are produced from food crops grown on arable land. The plant will turn 300 metric tons of raw fluff per day into 36 million liters of ethanol per year. Biofuels are a more. 6. Nitrogen added to drinking water can cause health problems, like methemoglobinemia, a disease that prevents infants from using the oxygen in their blood. Increases Pollution in contrast to wind and solar 10. For example, it is estimated that growing one hectare of corn for biofuels takes between 3,000 and 5,000 cubic meters of water per year. These materials include plant matter such as corn, soybeans, and sugarcane, as well as animal fats and agricultural waste. 1. After the incineration process is complete, the total mass of the remaining garbage can be reduced by up to 85 percent, while its volume may shrink by as much as 95 percent .. Disadvantages of Biofuels Despite the benefits, there are some disadvantages of biofuels that make the general population hesitant to use them. "Measuring Corn Ethanol's Thirst for Water." Biodiesel, as the most common biofuel in Europe, is generated from oils or fats using transesterification. If farmers are incentivized to plant crops that are not well suited for the location, they may end up needing more water than any other crops would. Loss of natural habitat can change the hydrology, increase erosion, and generally reduce biodiversity of wildlife areas. Biodiesel produces less toxic pollutants and greenhouse gases than petroleum diesel. The clearing of land can also result in the sudden release of a large amount of carbon dioxide as the plant matter that it contains is burned or allowed to decay. Lets have a look at the main advantages of biofuels over fossil fuels: Biofuels replenish over time, whereas fossil fuels are non-renewable and will eventually run out. Biofuel can generate electricity and can be created from various waste products collected from the farming industry. With international trends swinging toward sustainable transportation, fuels such as corn-based ethanol and biodiesel from soy, switchgrass and palm oil seem like a good step toward cleaner, greener highways. Explore our digital archive back to 1845, including articles by more than 150 Nobel Prize winners. Segregating organic waste from the garbage to generate Biogas considerably reduces wastes from landfills. Biofuels also supply environmental benefits but, depending on how they are manufactured, can also have serious environmental drawbacks. In evaluating the economic benefits of biofuels, the energy required to produce them has to be taken into account. Biomass energy comes from organic materials, such as plants, so that is why it receives classification as a renewable source of energy. July 30, 2000. Some of the disadvantages of biofuels apply mainly to low-diversity biofuel sourcescorn, soybeans, sugarcane, oil palmswhich are traditional agricultural crops. The New York Times. This is due to the fact that biofuels are derived from renewable resources, such as crops and waste materials, which is more expensive to grow and process than fossil fuels. Biofuel production using food crops such as corn, soybeans and sorghum has the potential to alter drastically the world's access to affordable food. Future Price Growth 8. Likewise, the fertilizer, water and land required to produce enough biofuel to reduce fossil fuel consumption significantly can create other problems, ranging from increased pollution to decreased access to food. In this regard, cellulosic biomass is considered to be more beneficial. This means they require more space to store the same amount of energy than fossil fuels. The production of biofuels often leads to land use changes, such as the conversion of natural habitats to cropland. This lack of compatibility is one of the reasons that biofuels have not been widely adopted as a replacement for fossil fuels. Explore the increasing production of ethanol biofuel in the U.S and its downside, Learn the process of producing biodiesel from rapeseed oil. In fact, the 468 million metric tons of trash produced in North America each year could provide 47 billion liters of ethanolor roughly the same amount as produced from corn, which presently supplies 10 percent of U.S. gasoline demand. But in cases that seem as much science fiction as they are scientific fact, genetically modified crops have accidentally developed unintended -- and sometimes dangerous -- traits. Being forced to import oil creates problems for their economy. As an alternative to landfills, incineration offers the following advantages: #1 Far more efficient use of space. Similarly, nutrients that are returned to the soil through crop rotation and allow fields to lay fallow disappear under extreme monocultural farming. One obvious consideration is the gel, or clouding, point: A fuel that turns solid well above water's freezing point would not be very useful in a cold location. They cover the soil year-round, and support biodiversity of small soil fauna and mammals by providing nutrients. And trash-based biofuels need not compete on cost with fuels, as long as they offer a lower cost than their other competitorlandfills. By using biofuels as an alternative energy source, we can reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, which can help to reduce our impact on the environment and contribute to a more sustainable energy system that is more locally based. This means large scale production to supply for a large population is still not possible. Uses land that could be used to grow food. "You can place it in refineries throughout North America. However, ease of access to food imports and the export depends on a wide variety of political and social factors. An example of such practice could be plantation of diverse prairie grass mixtures. And once the engine's running, the differences in combustion properties between gasoline and ethanol means that the ethanol-converted engine needs to have its ignition timing adjusted to operate properly [source: Tsuneishi]. Biofuels, and the process of integrating them into our fuel use habits, can be costly. The liquid biofuel in greatest production is ethanol (ethyl alcohol), which is made by fermenting starch or sugar. There is a huge potential for bioenergy obtained from waste to decrease the speed of global warming. The heat, in turn, can be used to run generators in a power plant to produce electricity. Most fossil fuels will expire one day. Many biofuel crops are used to make biodiesel. 7. Cellulosic biomas obtained from non-food sources, including trees and grasses, is also being developed as a raw material for ethanol production. Other biofuels include methane gas and biogaswhich can be derived from the decomposition of biomass in the absence of oxygenand methanol, butanol, and dimethyl etherwhich are in development. The amount of vegetable oil available in an acre of crops can vary widely, from 18 gallons per acre for corn to 635 gallons for oil palm [source: Journey to Forever]. 2023 Scientific American, a Division of Springer Nature America, Inc. For example, the process of growing corn to produce ethanol consumes fossil fuels in farming equipment, in fertilizer manufacturing, in corn transportation, and in ethanol distillation. The use of biofuels can therefore help to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and contribute to a more sustainable energy system. Thanks for reading Scientific American. Bioenergy is less expensive. Biodiesel is not much better. Similarly, BlueFire Ethanol turns waste into ethanol by using sulfuric acid to release the cellulose in the trash and then adds enzymes and microbes to ferment it into fuel. The oil in their grains is pressed out, filtered, and reformed to fuel by a chemical process. Biofuels are generally of two categories: gaseous biofuel and liquid biofuel. It's Not Completely Clean High Costs In Comparison To Other Alternatives Possible Deforestation Production Requires Space It Requires Water It Has Inefficiencies It's Under Development (Dec. 13, 2010)http://www.ers.usda.gov/Data/BiotechCrops/, Special Offer on Antivirus Software From HowStuffWorks and TotalAV Security. Gasoline is refined from crude oil, a non-renewable resource. Less carbon emissions . Biofuels can be extracted from the waste of those crops as well. Pure ethanol and biodiesel are nontoxic and biodegradable, and if spilled, they break down into harmless substances. Let us now have a look at the disadvantages also. Biofuel uses waste natural materials, and produces fewer emissions as a result. See also carbon sequestration. The amount of water used to grow biofuels varies depending on the type of biofuel, the location, and the farming practices used. Some scientists argue that producing enough biodiesel or ethanol to replace one gallon of petroleum fuel needs energy equal to several gallons value of petroleum fuel. During initial tests of a modified strain of corn, researchers discovered that the crop, which had been engineered to fight off a moth known to prey on corn, produced pollen that could possibly kill larvae of the monarch butterfly. Biogas and syngas are two types of gaseous biofuels. 2. The process is not always cost-effective: Yes, though it may pay cash to the contributors, the truth is this process needs a lot of money, time and land to set up a plant and run.