The term biofuels refers to a wide range of fuels which are in some way derived from biomass, organic matter. In today's society they are gaining increased public and scientific attention due to rising gas and oil prices. The most widely recognized biofuel is likely corn or sugar based ethanol. This is created through the fermentation of plant products. Biodiesel is another form of biofuel that is made from vegetable oils, animal fats, or recycled greases. It is produced from oils or fats through a process called transesterification. The Internation Energy Agency predicts that biofuels have the potential to meet more than a quarter of world demand for transportation.
Advantages of Biofuels
Biofuels are a renewable energy source in that they are created from plants that can be regrown each year. Biofuels also do not require many changes(if any) in cars and other places of use to be utilized. Some consider the use of biofuels as carbon neutral since the carbon produced when burning them is offset by the carbon consumed by the plants they came from. In the United States, biofuels can help reduce the dependence on foreign oils, which fluctuate in price rapidly. Biofuels may help to buffer against the change.
Disadvantages of Biofuels
While some consider their use "carbon neutral," the machniery required to farm the plants for biofuels does create carbon emissions, this machinery is also typically not powered by biofuels. Research suggests despite this fact, that biofuels help to reduce carbon emissions by 50-60%.
One of the main detractors to the use of biofuels is that setting aside land for biofuel crops means less land for food production. Some foreign countries have said that it is unethical to use crops for biofuel when global hunger is an ever present problem.