energy biofuel
Biological Energy Sources

In addition to solar, wind, and hydro power there are other alternative energy sources which are also less damaging to the environment than fossil fuels. Biofuel is derived from conversion of plant matter in to simpler carbon compounds. Bioethanol is an alcohol compound that is derived from the process of fermentation. It has the potential to eventually replace gasoline and is already used as fuel for some vehicles.

Bioethanol burns cleaner than gasonline and other related fuels. When fossil fuels are burnt they release many toxins into the environment.  However, when ethanol is burnt it mainly releases carbon dioxide which is captured again from the atmosphere by plants during the next growing cycle.  This is an example of a closed carbon cycle.  Good crops for producing ethanol are corn and sugarcane crops. Corn is already heavily grown, and even subsidized by the US government, in the United States so many farmers are in a good position to capitalize on the biofuel trend.  Unfortunately, even with the huge amounts of corn grown in the United States ethanol is not yet at production capacity to completely replace fuel and gasoline.  Until production can increase ethanol is mostly being used as an additive to gasoline to lower emissions.  

Biodiesel, another type of biofuel, can already be used as a replacement for vehicles that run on diesel.  It is produced from oil and fat using a process called trans esterification. The purer the biodiesel, the lower the amount of emissions it produces when burnt.  Biodiesel is very widely used in parts of Europe and many governments are encouring the use of vehicles which are able to run on biodiesel.  Many people go to fast-food and other restaurants offering to pick up their used frying oil.

Another source of bioligical fuel is landfills. As biomass in a landfill decomposes it releases methane gas. The released methane can then be captured and and used as energy. This gas is known as landfill gas (LFG) and there are special Landfill Gas-to-Energy facilities which are able to produce over 50 megawatts of electricy.

Raw biomass which consists of by-products or waste material can be combined and compressed to form small pellets which may look a little like rabbit food. Burning these pellets creates heat which can be used to generate electricity. The typical production process involves grinding waste products like sawdust or woodchips in to smaller forms of mass. Since this biomass is made entirely from waste products, it is a feasible way of creating energy while disposing of waste materials. Unfortunately, the burning process can release dangerous emissions, especially if the source material is agricultural or chemical waste.

Biofuel generally provides cleaner and healthier emissions when burnt as compared to traditional fossil fuels. Although there is a need to use biofuel at present production is limited.