Biofuels-Renewable Energy for the Future?

April 12, 2009 by  
Filed under Bioenergy

The future of energy depends on taking advantage of sources of power that are as natural and renewable as possible. It is imperative to our environment and our economy to find ways to run things that are cleaner and cheaper. Gas prices are unstable and can quickly become unaffordable to many families. Biofuels may be a promising option for green energy. Though all of the benefits and uses are still in research and development, they are already used globally for running cars, heating homes, and cooking.

Biofuels are a mixture of hydrocarbons from animal waste or plant material used for energy. They are derived from material that is living or recently living, as opposed to fossil fuels which are made from material that has been dead for a very long time. One of the most popular and widely used biofuels is wood, which is a raw material which can be burned to generate heat. That heat can then be used in power plants to run generators that produce electricity.

Another popular biofuel that is on the fast track for research and development is ethanol. Ethanol is made from sugars and starches from converted corn, sugarcane, or high cellulose plants like switchgrass. Ethanol can be mixed with gasoline or used directly in internal combustion engines. Biodiesel is a biofuel comprising plant oils such as soybean or palm that are chemically processed and mixed with petroleum.

Even though most biofuels are not 100% environmentally friendly because they are mixed with petroleum, they have many benefits that make them worthwhile. The first is that they are less expensive. Pure petroleum will always be costlier than a gasoline mixture.

Second, biofuels actually burn cleaner, which is better for what they are running. If you decide to run your furnace with a biofuel mixture, not only does it not require any great change to accept the fuel, but it also will make it cleaner just by burning in it. Some biofuels do require adaptations for engines to run them, such as E85, which comprises 85% ethanol and 25% gasoline.

Third, most biofuels don’t add any pollution to the environment. Some biofuels, such as E85, do create some pollution emissions in production, but compared to traditional fuels, all biofuels are greener and more eco-friendly. Even though the biggest impact you could make would be completely switching to only natural or renewable energy, even using a 10% biofuel can make a difference to reduce global warming and contribute to a cleaner planet.

If you’re looking to get started in living a green lifestyle, a great first step could be to use biofuels in your car or furnace. Even if the heat in your home is just a little bit greener than usual, every little bit makes an impact and contributes to a greener life.

Biofuels are important for the future of energy use and can be an important first step for many families that want to start living green. They are cheaper, burn cleaner, and contribute less pollution to the environment than traditional fuels.

Biomass – Eco-Friendly Renewable Energy

March 8, 2009 by  
Filed under Biomass, Featured

When most people think about renewable energy, they think of solar or wind power. Hardly anyone thinks of biomass, yet it’s one of the oldest forms of renewable energy for heating. Biomass is simply organic material made from plants or animals that is currently alive or recently dead. It doesn’t include fossil fuels, because their material has been dead and removed from the carbon cycle for so long that it can’t be adequately replaced. Biomass fuels provide about 3 percent of the energy used in the United States.

For renewable energy purposes, think of plant matter. A common example of renewable energy biomass is burning wood. Up until a century or so ago, the primary home heating source was wood. Today it is still used. Many homes have wood stoves, or the newer eco-friendly and economical wood pellet stoves. Since this biomass is plant matter, it can always be re-planted as it is used, and is therefore renewable. With responsible use, our supply of plant biomass never need run out.

Because burning biomass releases carbon dioxide, it is part of something called the carbon cycle. Carbon from the air is converted into biological matter through photosynthesis. Through death or burning, carbon re-enters the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. When plant biomass is used as fuel, the carbon dioxide released into the air can constantly be replaced with replanting, as new plants absorb carbon dioxide. The result is a neutral effect on the environment if every plant burned is replaced with a replant.

Though plant biomass s a great form of renewable energy, biomass can also come from animal matter, or even organic garbage. You don’t even have to use combustion to release the energy of biomass. It can also release energy by being converted to methane gas or transportation fuels like ethanol and biodiesel. Crops like sugar cane and corn can be fermented to produce the transportation fuel, ethanol. Biodiesel can be produced from leftover food products like animal fats and vegetable oils. Methane, the main ingredient of natural gas, is released in landfills, and from agricultural and human waste. Its global warming potential is much higher than that of carbon dioxide. By collecting methane from biomass and using it to produce energy, it could actually reduce the harmful greenhouse gases that lead to global warming.

A great advantage of biomass fuel is its versatility. While solar or wind power has to be used immediately or stored in batteries, biomass that is converted to gas can be stored for use in burning or heating. It also can be converted to liquid to fuel cars, or a briquette similar to charcoal. In this way it is a renewable energy source that has the ability to be stored up like traditional fossil fuels, without the adverse affects on the environment.

As fossil fuel prices rise and their supplies come closer to being depleted, there is likely to be increasing research into renewable energy sources, including the green, convenient use of biomass fuel. Aside from the environmental benefits, using biomass for energy can cut back on waste and support agricultural products grown in the United States.