Biofuels may be defined as any fuel obtained from biomass. Biomass is material derived from plants and animals. Experts and environmentalists feel that we need to make changes in our manner of living so that we can protect the planet from global warming. Switching to biofuels for the transportation industry can be one such change.
Some of the Biofuels include vegetable oil, biodiesel, biogas and bioalcohol. Vegetable oil is used to manufacture biodiesel which can be used in cars. Biodiesel is generated through a process known as transesterification by using oils and fats. Today, this is the most commonly used biofuel in the world. Bioalcohols like ethanol fuel and butanol are produced by fermentation of sugars and starch. Biodiesel is a source of renewable energy, since it is plant based. It is a green fuel as it does not release toxic gases in the atmosphere.
Biodiesel can be used in any diesel engine, mixed with the normal diesel. Biobutanol which is also called biogasoline can be used directly in a vehicle as a replacement for gasoline. Biofuels are beneficial to the environment as they reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reduce our dependence on fossil fuel, increase national energy security, increase rural development and provide a sustainable fuel supply for the future.
Many environmental groups are supporting the use of biofuels since they see it as a significant step towards slowing down climate change. Many countries which are beginning to recognise the importance of bioenergy have dedicated facilities for research, development and deployment. There is exchange of information and co-operation among the nations who realize the importance of reaping the benefits of biofuels.
At present there are a few problems associated with the use of biofuels, one of them being the high cost of production. Another point of note is the extensive deforestation due to the use of wood as a source of biomass, and the negative impact it will have on the environment. There are other issues with bio diesel fuel relating to the transport industry, as it does not perform well in cold climates. The wax crystals formed may clog fuel lines of the vehicles. So vehicles may still have to be powered by gasoline in cold climates unless future research can overcome these problems.
In future however, biofuels should become cost effective, affordable, abundant and eco-friendly. This is a challenge for the scientists and hopefully, with the amount of research being done in the field of biotechnology, the world will get an abundant source of alternative energy. Once the stocks of fossil fuels deplete, and the price of oil rises to unprecedented levels, there will be tremendous pressure to look for alternatives. Biofuels can then be used as an alternative source of energy for powering your cars,boilers and engines as also providing heat and electricity to your homes.