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What is the Biofuel

Updated on March 26, 2011

The biofuel is a fuel made from biomass in an indirect way: wheat, corn, beet, cane sugar, etc..

This, coming from a renewable resource, should be available virtually without interruption, the primary disadvantage recognized the biofuel would be to remove agricultural land that is used for food production.A second order of consideration is that the ratio of energy required to produce them and that which has become available is not always favorable.

Biofuels are considered:



the biomethanol;

the biodimethylether;

synthetic hydrocarbons;

the biohydrogen;

vegetable oils.

Biogas is produced during the anaerobic digestion of manure and agro-industrial waste.

Consumption of Food and Agricultural Resources

Biofuels are accused of reducing the availability of food and increase world hunger. The data on the actual energy output and the possible reduction of emissions of carbon dioxide are mixed. The cultivation of raw materials needed to produce them, in general, is accused of polluting. Biodiesel production is also very costly in terms of water. To produce a liter of biodiesel used 4000 liters of water for crop irrigation and in the process of chemical transformation. Criticism of biofuel production through large plantations is coming from all major international organizations. In this article, the BBC reported the convictions of some United Nations experts.

For data on the efficiency of combustion and production (EROEI), see entries on specific biofuels.

Other studies [Cite sources] examined the ethanol come to define the value of his hero could be equal to 7-8 in the best case of the Brazilian sugar cane. As for bioethanol from sugar beet or wheat does not bear comparison with that from sugar cane, its value is approximately equal to 1.

Energy Efficiency


In 2005, the journal Natural Resources Research ecologist David Pimentel and Tad W. environmental engineer Patzek published a study that both the production of biodiesel from soybean and sunflower, both the ethanol from corn, wood and grass, they consume far more energy than can be seen from the fuel, taking no account of either tax or environmental damage.


Other studies [Cite sources] examined the ethanol come to define the value of his hero could be equal to 7-8 in the best case of the Brazilian sugar cane. As for bioethanol from sugar beet or wheat does not bear comparison with that from sugar cane, its value is approximately equal to 1.

Food Shortage

Such use of agricultural resources will result in the expected exit from the market power of a huge part of the world population and the rising price of farmland. The production of cereals and other raw materials for the synthesis of bio-fuels, and that for food consumption, identify these products are not substitutes, in the presence of a scarce resource, which is the acreage.

Many prominent economists believe that the production of biofuels is causing poverty and world hunger, while the production of biofuels contribute to the growth of local economies and the global redistribution of wealth, creating employment opportunities in rural areas and help small farmers to increase their income. In the world there is a sufficient supply of agricultural land and semi-arid climate that can sustain a long-term cultivation of plants which produce biofuels, especially where governments are committed to applying innovative solutions for sustainable development.

The demand for biofuels has led to an increase of 30% of the arable land in large parts of the United States and South America, plants from which they derive, and substitute products (in terms of the manufacturer) and cereals such as wheat, whose supply and arable land has decreased in similar quantities (biofuels are "cultivated" in areas where previously grew wheat and cereals).

The prices of biofuels grow to an excess demand, which grew exponentially as global supply (which, as Malthus foresaw to the food supply, following an arithmetic progression). Instead, the price of cereals increases by a drop in supply, because the land and the same plants are grown for biofuels, more profitable for farmers in production for food consumption.

The rise of raw material (wheat and corn) has caused price increases for the products (30% pasta, 15% sweets, bread, and an increase in the price of fodder and meat).

The cultivation of cereals for the synthesis of ethanol rather than food production is one of the causes of the rise in grain and related derivati.In Europe and the United States, federal and community grants for the production of ethanol is higher than the production of cereals for food. In addition, the fact that bioethanol is nevertheless a more remunerative crop.

A calorie calculation leads to say that keeping vehicles with human food is expensive. Are consumed in Italy 39 billion liters / year of gasoline and diesel for automobiles, each gram of oil has 9 calories and a human consumes 2500 calories a day, so you can do a simple calculation on the energy capacity to feed people by biodiesel (oil) that could be consumed in Italy. The gate count of more than 300 million human consumption with biodiesel sfamabili Italian vehicles, note that the Italian population is nearly 60 million.


Environmental Impacts

Coming from agricultural crops, the biofuel produces far fewer pollutants when burning, compared to oil. However, considering the entire life cycle, from production and including transport, energy balance is not always positive. But the most critical environment for the expansion of monoculture to produce energy in non-agricultural areas, and this is particularly true for soybeans and oil palm.The expansion of soybean monoculture, which is fueled by the growth forecasts of the market move from the development of biofuels, is a driver of deforestation in the vast acres of rainforest and cerrado, too, the expansion of oil palm plantations is an issue, highlighted from environmental groups like Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth), underlining the conversion to monoculture areas such as ecologically important areas of rainforest or peat bog.The agricultural conversion of peatlands through drainage and oxidation of peat in fact causes major carbon emissions in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, in particular, it is common practice to burn areas of forest and peat swamp immediately after the drainage, with resulting in significant environmental damage, and has been estimated that even after this phenomenon in Indonesia has become the fourth largest emitter of greenhouse gases in Africa, too, the oil palm starts to expand in the forest regions and threaten important ecosystems, and this is for example the case of Uganda.


The American and European subsidies for production are higher than those grown for grain for food consumption. The production of biocombustibiili is itself the most profitable destination for food use, even without government subsidies. Due to the rising price of crude oil (lower bid) and a strong global demand growth, fuel production becomes competitive with technologies that have long been known that lead to a cost of a liter of fuel is comparable with that of gasoline at the pump. Previously, this technology was not widespread because it was cheaper to buy the oil instead of producing biofuels. The mechanism of the European and American subsidies do not help to redress this trend.It is interesting with regard to Italy to follow the choices made by the Tuscany Region and the Province of Siena, in the preparation, respectively, of the Regional Energy Plan to Address and the Provincial Energy Plan.

The Second-Generation Biofuels

Techniques are being studied for biofuel production to avoid the onset of problems seen (ie, land use, agricultural use changes, etc.).. The so-called "second-generation biofuels" are in fact obtained with other techniques, such as the processing of lignocellulosic material (through the technique of pyrolysis), the growing of miscanthus or growing algae.Pyrolysis, in particular, can transform the biomass collected directly on the site in a special oil which is then sent to a central facility for the synthesis of fuels themselves, considerably reducing the transport costs.


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    • Tony Locicero profile image

      Tony Locicero 

      7 years ago from Inverness Florida

      Underlying all of this is the fact that the population of the world keeps rising and rising. There is a limit that I'm afraid we will reach sooner or later where we will not viable.

      Long term, portable energy sources will be hydrogen and alcohol based once we have fusion or more efficient solar, wind, and geothermal energy sources. For now, we use inefficient methods to create hydrogen keeping costs, and environmental impact, high.

      Thanks for the hub.


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