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Alternative Energy: Are Biofuels The Solution?

1171 words - 5 pages

Fossil Fuels are a significant part of contemporary society as they provide energy for transportation through the use of cars, motorbikes, trucks and planes. Modern society is heavily contingent with the fuels and their applications however, this has led to the dilemma of global warming which is expanding into a tenacious issue due to the over consumption of fossil fuels. Global warming is caused by the emissions of chemical compounds that the fossil fuels are composed of; one of which is Carbon dioxide gas. The emissions of such chemical compounds have gradually shifted the Earth’s climate; which have resulted in implications such as elevated sea levels, depletion of the ozone layer and increase of the Earth’s temperature. Fossil fuels are a limited resource and at this rate of consumption the supply may be completely depleted in a few decades time. Clearly, a solution to this ravaging dilemma is needed and biofuels seem to be the answer.
Biofuels are fuels that are extracted from organic matter, particularly plants. The main goal of biofuel technology is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This is achieved through the utilization of photosynthesis. Plants consume water, CO2 ¬and sunlight to synthesize biomass or molecules such as sugars and oils (Bioenergy, 2008). Since the CO2 is absorbed from the atmosphere hypothetically speaking, the net increase of CO2 levels would be zero when the biomass is burned (Bioenergy, 2008). Corn ethanol was attempted to replace fossil fuels as a fuel source however, testing results showed that corn ethanol had many drawbacks than benefits. U.S. corn ethanol production went from 50 million gallons in 1979 to 13 billion gallons in 2010 however this was only possible through massive government subsidies (David, 2011). Furthermore, ethanol the production of the 13 billion gallons of corn ethanol consumed approximately 40% of the nation’s corn crop supply which consequently increased food prices. As a result, people have abandoned the possibility of utilizing corn based ethanol as a fuel.
Fortunately there is more than one type of biofuel for example biofuels can be cellulose based and algal based so long as they are derived from plant matter. Cellulose as a biofuel is more feasible since cellulose is not food for humans thus the increase of food prices will no longer be an issue. The energy that could be potentially harvested from waste cellulose is huge. Estimates say that 80% of cellulosic material would displace 30% of the U.S. current transportation fuel. As appealing as the cellulosic material may be as a biofuel it also has its shortcomings; cellulose is extremely difficult to breakdown. Even through the use of enzyme specialized for the breakdown of cellulose it will be inevitably slow as the enzyme requires time to work accordingly, the mass production of cellulose biofuels does not seem conceivable (Biello, 2011) [2].
Scientists have set their eyes on algae as a fuel source. Algal based biofuels are more...

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