Why We Are Producing Biofuels
by Robert C. Brown and Tristan Brown (The Gazette) In the face of criticism about ethanol, delays in the commercialization of advanced biofuels and the recent development of domestic supplies of fracked gas and petroleum, some people are asking, “Why are we producing biofuels?”
The answer, quite simply, is that we have few other options for achieving a sustainable energy future. Besides quality and cost, future fuels will have to meet additional metrics including environmental, social and political sustainability.
Recognizing that even the entire U.S. corn crop converted to ethanol would replace only about 20 to 25 percent of national gasoline consumption, agronomists have been developing alternative crops for biofuels. These include trees and tall prairie grasses, residues from traditional crop production, municipal wastes and even microalgae.
Conversion of biomass into biofuels is the best option for reducing use of petroleum and other fossil fuels. Why? Except for biofuels, none of the other fossil-fuel alternatives — coal, natural gas, tar sands, oil shale — has prospects for long-term sustainability as evaluated in terms of production costs, greenhouse gas emissions, water demand, impact on local communities or infrastructure investment.
Although other kinds of renewable energy can be converted into fuels, most are more costly and less infrastructure-compatible than biofuels.
We discovered that increasing domestic fuel production, even though displacing only 10 percent of gasoline supply, could shake up the energy industry, with gasoline refining in the United States now facing a long decline and oil-producing nations realizing they are not the only players in fuel markets. READ MORE