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Biofuels...the Next Big Thing in Energy

Updated on November 15, 2013
Alternative fuels :)
Alternative fuels :) | Source

Fun Fact

Ever wonder how insulin is made and mass produced for diabetics?

Let's just say It involves the manipulation of Escherichia coli. E.coli can easily reproduce and is a great model for mass production systems.

What are Bio Fuels?

Biofuels are made by the manipulation of living organisms in order to produce a fuel. It can be a crazy concept to grasp at first. A living organism is anything with the following 5 criteria:

  • Can reproduce
  • Has a metabolism
  • Is interdependent
  • Can undergo evolution
  • Contains a cellular structure

These living organisms are usually a type of bacteria or plant. For example, most people have heard of Escherichia coli but in a negative way from the media. Although, from a scientist's point of view, E.coli is the perfect model to manipulate. It's structure is very simple and most importantly it's DNA can easily be manipulated through it's plasmid. Algae is another widely used organism. It can reproduce quickly and is great for mass production.

Another living organism widely used for Biofuels is corn. What? Did she just write corn? Yes, Yes I did. A stalk of corn contains ethanol. Ethanol is a fuel. A fuel is a source of energy. It is burned in order to make power. Like for your vehicle, heaters, lights etc. Without some type of fuel source you would not have electricity.

Corn and wheat grown solely for the purpose of producing ethanol.
Corn and wheat grown solely for the purpose of producing ethanol. | Source

Why Bio Fuels...?

The idea to produce Bio fuels comes from wanting to mass produce a fuel source that is sustainable. We currently use crude oil as our main fuel source in the United States and in many other countries as well. Crude oil is not a renewable resource.

A renewable resource is a resource like water or sunlight that can renew itself indefinitely. As long as it is not completely depleted somehow. The fact that crude oil has a finite amount is a problem. One day in the future, if gas is still used as it is today, the supply of crude oil will be depleted and we will all be at a loss without gas for our vehicles or anything else gas dependent . A World without oil... kind of scary to think about huh?

In our defense as a human race, we are always trying to find new ways to improve. Unlike crude oil, Bio fuels from stocks of corn can continue to reproduce, the same with algae and bacteria. You can't make crude oil. It's a natural resource from the ground. It's Earth's secret recipe so there is no know way to grow it, we can only extract it from the Earth.

Top Countries who Produce Biofuels 2010-2011

Ranking
Country/Region
2011
2010
1
United States
13,900
13,231
2
Brazil
5,573
6,922
3
European Union
1,199
1,177
4
China
555
542
5
Canada
462
357
Values in Millions of U.S gallons per year Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethanol_fuel_by_country

Food or Fuel?

Source

Conflict with Bio Fuels

In my opinion there are still many conflicting issues involving the growth of corn and wheat for the sole purpose of producing bio fuels. We eat corn and Wheat on a daily basis so there is a huge conflict between eating the corn or using it for fuel. It can also have a high cost. To grow corn and wheat effectively most farms use Pesticides and fertilizer. Which can also take away from what we need for food.

With that said, I think that producing Bio fuels through algae and bacteria is a more welcoming idea.

  • You would still need a large area to grow both algae and bacteria, but people don't normally need to eat these things, so the conflict involving a choice between food disappears.
  • The cost is more reasonable as well, compared to those of crude oil.
  • As a country (USA) our energy sectors can be less dependent on other countries, unlike our current situation with crude oil
  • It allows for a new process to be in place when crude oil runs out

*The process of creating bio diesel and other fuels from algae can be seen in the video below.

How Algae Tech Works

Crystal's View

I believe that in time we can create new processes to obtain energy from renewable resources as long as people are thinking about these problems now. Something definitely needs to change in the way we not only extract energy but how we use the energy we have in order for future generations to have a chance. Crude oil will run out one day, and I want to be able to have hope that we as the current generation are doing something to help out our future people.

I am currently a Senior perusing a bachelors degree in Chemical and Biochemical Engineering. When I graduate I want to get into the field of energy so I can help change the world. I know plenty of others who want to do the same. I'm sure we as a people can figure it out, we sometimes just need the right push in order to so.

An Algae Reactor

Source

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    • Crystals-view profile image
      Author

      Crystals-view 4 years ago from Colorado, USA

      Thank you for reading FlourishAnyway! I'm sure many innovations will come about in the future as long as they are being thought of today :)

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 4 years ago from USA

      This is really interesting. I did not know the US was the top biofuel producing nation. I think biofuels are a step in the right direction. Although I can appreciate the argument about corn and wheat being useful for food purposes, perhaps it's a matter of today it's those products and tomorrow it's some alternative, non-edible biofuel. Well done hub.

    • Crystals-view profile image
      Author

      Crystals-view 4 years ago from Colorado, USA

      Im glad you found this hub interesting mperrottet. Energy is a fascinting topic :) thanks for sharing!

    • mperrottet profile image

      Margaret Perrottet 4 years ago from Pennsauken, NJ

      What an interesting hub! I didn't realize that we could get biofuel this way, and it seems like a much more sensible process than using corn. You've chosen a fascinating major in Chemical and Biochemical engineering, and we need people like you to get into the energy field to solve the critical problems that the world is facing in this area. You're right - solutions here could change the world. Great hub - voted up, useful, interesting - and sharing.