The New Generation of Biofuels
For a while, people assumed that fossil fuels were the best source of fuel. However, recent events connected to our increasing use of fossil fuels have shown that this resource is running out. With a limited supply and ever growing demand, the prices for gas and oil are continually getting higher. But more importantly, we have now realized that processing fossil fuels have a substantial impact on the environment. Evidence of this can be seen in the dramatic increases of global temperature and the unusual changes in climate witnessed in recent years.
So, how do we change this costly and destructive way of harnessing energy? Lately, the answer seems to turn to biofuels. But not just regular biofuels, the current situation seems to favor the use of waste fuels. These waste fuels are derived from various materials that would otherwise occupy landfills. These include animal wastes, household garbage, used plastics, and even used cooking oils. Waste fuels could also include unusable parts of the corn stalks that are thrown away as well as using wastes from the production of things like paper.
Generally, Biofuels can come as oils, alcohols, gases and even solid fuels. To be considered a biofuel, at least 80% of the product’s components should be renewable. Hence, biofuels usually come from farm animals and crops that have recently been harvested. Plants and animals are relatively easy to grow in comparison to mining for fossil fuels, so this would mean that supplies would be more abundant and more readily accessible. Unlike fossil fuels, as long as we generate waste, we can have waste fuels.
There are three generations of biofuels or waste fuels, they vary according to the raw material and technology used. First generation biofuels are called biodiesel, bioethanol and vegetable oil. These are fuels derived from plant and animal products like starch, sugar or animal fats. In the second generation, non-food crops are utilized, such as the paper mentioned earlier. In the third, algae are used since algae need very little care, are quick to regenerate, and have the ability to convert into fuel.
Waste fuels from living organisms can involve unusable stalks from corn plants or even cut branches from trees. In the case of animals, recent studies have suggested that animal manure can be treated and harnessed in order to produce waste fuels. Doing so will increase the efficiency of farms as there will be less animal excretions to take care of. At the same time as waste is being decreased an alternative source power is being created. Also, using wastes for fuel eliminates the need to plant crops like soybeans in order to meet the needed supply for fuel production.
Aside from living things and their by products, waste fuels can also be derived from municipal solid waste or the garbage collected from our homes. This can be an effective way of using landfill gas, the odorous gas that is produced when buried waste materials start the process called, anaerobic digestion. If left untapped, these landfill gases will simply move to the atmosphere, adding to greenhouse gases and subsequently global warming. In fact, landfill gas has very high methane content which makes landfill gas more harmful than carbon dioxide. If we use these resources as waste fuels we can make real positive impact on global warming.