A biofuel is a fuel that contains energy from carbon fixation. These fuels are produced from living organisms that have decayed after they died. Examples of this carbon fixation occur in plants and microalgae and even decomposing animals. These fuels are made by converting biomass into biofuels a biomass is a recently living organism, most often plants or plant-derived materials. This biomass can be converted to energy containing substances in three different ways thermal conversion, chemical conversion, and biochemical conversion. This biomass conversion can result in fuel in solid, liquid, or gas form of biofuel. Biofuels have increased in popularity because of rising oil prices and the need for energy security. Biofuels have been around as long as cars have been around.

“Originally Henry Ford planned to make his Model T’s on ethanol which is a biofuel.  Also early diesel engines were shown to run off of peanut oil.”(NatGeo) The main reason why the biofuel era died out was because of very large petroleum deposits found in the ground. This drove the prices down and the biofuels were seen as expensive, so the companies continued to use the petroleum until it was to scarce to find and this is why there is such a big interest in biofuels now. Another reason why biofuels are in the spotlight is because they could be the answer to the carbon dioxide emissions that are being put into the atmosphere from the exhausts of cars, trucks, equipment and airplanes.

The Gasoline that is used today is blended with a biofuel, ethanol which is made from corn. The main way to make a biofuel is with fermentation, chemical reactions and heat so they can break down the sugars, starches and other materials in plants; until the only thing that’s left is a fuel that we can use for transportation, recreational uses, or for machines. Many countries use different biofuels; they use whatever is largely available for them. “In Brazil they use sugarcane; In Europe they use a palm olive biofuel.”(NatGeo) Biofuels are like a double edged sword, they cut the carbon dioxide that is put into the atmosphere and then the plants that are used to make the biofuels can absorb the carbon dioxide that the automobiles produce.

In actuality biofuels are not that good. The process of growing the crops takes too much energy to produce to make a profit from the biofuel. After the fertilizers and pesticides, and then the actual machines to convert the crops into biofuels takes place the yield of fuel from the crops is not enough energy to prove that it makes more energy than it uses. “For the future the scientists are looking into converting grasses into biofuels.”(NatGeo) They are looking into plants with more cellulose, and then they are going to convert the extra cellulose into biofuels.

Bioethanol is an alcohol made by fermentation which is mostly from carbohydrates produced in sugar or starchy crops such as corn, sugarcane, yeast and grain. Also it can be created from milk, potatoes and rice.” (EcoSmart) This type of biomass is called cellulosic, or derived from non-food sources, such as trees and grasses.  Bioethanol is a renewable energy source which is made through the process of fermentation. Ethanol can be used as a fuel for vehicles in its pure form, however it is usually used as a gasoline additive to increase octane and improve the vehicle emissions.

“Bioethanol’s chemical formula is C2H5OH, it is a colorless liquid. It is low in toxicity and causes little environmental pollution.”(Strath) When it is burned it produces carbon dioxide and water. If we blend ethanol with gasoline, we also oxygenate the fuel mixture. This means it will burn more efficiently and this will reduce emissions when it burns. Fuel blended with Ethanol is sold in the United States in gas stations across the country. “The most common blend is 10% ethanol and 90% petroleum”.(Strath) All vehicles without any modifications are able to rum on this blend; however only vehicles modified to run on “flexible fuel can run on up to 85% ethanol and 15% petroleum blends.”(Strath)

The benefits of Bioethanol have a number of advantages over other fuels. It is made from a renewable resource such as crops, instead of being from a limited resource like petroleum. Another benefit over fossil fuels is the emissions that biofuels emit. The biofuels burn much cleaner than other fuels derived from fossil fuels. Also when we blend bioethanol with petroleum it will help extend the life of diminishing oil supplies until we have a sure and more efficient future with biofuels, which would also reduce heavy reliance on oil producing nations. By encouraging bioethanol’s use, the economy would receive a boost from growing the necessary crops and then selling them to the biofuel companies. Bioethanol is also biodegradable and far less toxic that fossil fuels. In addition, by using bioethanol in older engines can help reduce the amount of carbon monoxide, and carbon dioxide produced by the vehicle, or machine which would improve air quality. Another advantage of bioethanol is how easy it can be incorporated into the existing fuel system.

Biodiesel is another example of a Biofuel. Biodiesel is clean renewable; it is also reducing the U.S dependence on foreign petroleum and oil. Biodiesel is creating jobs for Americans and it is cleaning up the environment with the less efficient gasoline. “Biodiesel can be made through a variety of ways, such as soybean oil, animal fats and cooking oil.”(BioBasics) It is also the first and so far the only EPA designed Advanced Biodiesel, to be produced across the country, and the first to reach one billion gallons produced annually. Like Bioethanol it can be used in small amounts in Diesel engines without any modifications or voiding any warranties.  It is being produced in almost every state in the country. “The Industry has increased from about 25 million gallons in the 2000’s to 1.1 billion gallons in 2012.”(BioBasics) Biodiesel can either be used alone or blended with regular petroleum diesel. Many busses that are used for transportation, have converted to biodiesel, the reasoning behind this, is that is it burns cleaner, it puts out much less emissions and it acts as a self lubricant for the engine.

However there is one side effect of biodiesel that is when it is cooled down it crystallizes and could potentially clog up fuel lines. There is a way around this too, some trucks that run biodiesel have two tanks one that they keep regular diesel in and another that they keep the biodiesel in. They start the engine off of the regular petroleum diesel and they have a heating system wrapped around the biodiesel tank. Once the engine is turned on it heats up the biodiesel tank to get it to a liquid, and then all the driver has to do is flip from one tank to the other with a flip of a switch. Most biodiesel fuels start to crystallize around 61 degrees Fahrenheit.

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