Life Cycle Assessment Of Biodiesel Production

1222 words - 5 pages

The transportation of goods and people has dramatically altered earth’s landscape. The ease of mobility has enhanced and increased the transportation of everything. From miles traveled for our food before it arrives on our plates to the miles we travel to and from our jobs, transportation needs have increased. Humankind's insatiable appetite for transport necessitates cheap and abundant energy; a fleeting reality. Further, transportation and the energy used to power mobility has not bode well for the planet.
The transportation of goods and people will have a lasting impact on the planet. The scientific community agrees that burning fossil fuels — and thus the emittance of carbon dioxide and other effective greenhouse gasses (GHGs) — is what causes climate change. The energy used for transportation accounts for a large portion of all GHG emissions. Fossil fuels have begun to show signs of scarcity. There are becoming more expensive and difficult to retrieve (Dixon, 2013). Many have redirected their focus to renewables and other more environmentally sound alternatives. Some alternatives can even work within our current infrastructure. Further, many alternatives have proven to provide environmental mitigation such as carbon sequestration. Increasingly, scientists are looking at algae to carry out both.
Fossil fuels like oil and coal dominate the world’s energy portfolio. Biofuels only account for 10% of energy consumed (Dixon, 2013). Biofuel consumption is expected to expand as non-renewables are abandoned as environmental superior and more affordable alternatives manifest.
Oilgae are species of algae that contain between 30% and 75% oil when dried out (Singh, Ahluwalia, 2013). The lipid content, or rather, oil content in the different species of algae makes oilgae suitable to produce (Sheehan et al., 1988). Using a life cycle analysis (LCA), studies have already determined that only variants with high lipid content - and thus oilgae - are economically viable options for producing biofuels (Campbell, Beer, Batten, 2011).
The question begs then why is algae the superior energy alternative source? Oilgae, unlike other biofuels, does not compete with agroecosystems as corn and ethanol production does (Dixon, 2013). Biofuels like soy and corn have decimated those crop’s industry by turning food into feedstocks. Commodifying food crops has caused significant problems to the global food supply which is accentuated in less advantageous nations (Demirbas, 2011). The production of biodiesel from palm oil among others, has proven to increase levels of atmospheric greenhouse gases rather than sequester them; only further contributing to climate change (Campbell, Beer, Batten, 2011). Oilgae does not do either. Oilgae can grow almost anywhere and thus does not compete for agricultural lands nor do is compete with agriculture as oilgae is not edible. Further, oilgae is a particularly effective carbon sequester, warranting the production...

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