As oil approaches, and threatens to surpass, the $100 per barrel mark, many consumers are wondering if there are any viable alternatives to petroleum-based fuels. The good news is that there are plenty of alternatives; one of the best alternative fuels is biofuel.
Biofuels are made from organic waste, usually drawn from the world's agricultural industry. They're far less harmful to the environment and, unlike petroleum, their supply is not limited or subject to political or environmental price hikes.
But before completely buying into the concept of biofuels as an alternative energy source, there are a few biofuel facts that must be known and taken into consideration.
1. Biofuels are not a new concept. Henry Ford planned to run his cars on biofuel and even demonstrated a diesel model that ran on peanut oil.
2. If you've heard of ethanol, or used an ethanol-based fuel in your car, you've used a biofuel product to power your engine. One of the biofuel facts few Americans are aware of is that most gas stations nationwide have been supplying fuel that is partially composed of ethanol for several years.
3. Biofuel use may not be widespread or well-tested in America, but Brazil has successfully developed ethanol from sugarcane which powers many of its cars, and Europe has a popular and thriving biodiesel fuel derived from palm oil.
4. Unfortunately, there are debates about how much energy it would take in America to grow the corn necessary to provide enough biofuel to feed the nation's energy demands. It is widely believed that the energy needed to grow the corn and turn it into ethanol would negate the carbon savings of using a corn-based biofuel.
5. As biofuel requires a large agricultural industry that can produce significant amounts of corn, sugarcane, or similar crops, it will help impoverished companies become economically sound. One of the more heartening biofuel facts is that these largely rural countries could turn the burden of their rural villages into an asset.
6. Because ethanol can be transported by trucks and trains, it reduces the risk of price-spiking shutdowns or natural disasters which are common among oil pipelines.
7. In addition to benefitting local agricultural communities, biofuel results in true energy independence. It is grown, produced, transported, and sold, all within the country for whom it is produced. This is one of many biofuel facts that finds favor among Americans who are sick of delicate, oil-centric Middle Eastern political policies.
8. Though biodiesel has been shown to be more fuel-efficient than petroleum products in some engines, the fuel is inconsistent at best. Other engines have tended to show a 10% reduction in overall power, meaning traditional gasoline still reigns supreme for fuel efficiency.
9. Scientists are currently working on improving upon biodiesel's fuel efficiency by using sources which contain more cellulose. High-cellulose biofuels would be significantly more efficient than present-day sources.
10. The plants that biofuels come from are natural absorbers of carbon dioxide; promoting these plants (and the biofuel industry) will also promote lowering the level of dangerous carbon emissions in the atmosphere over time, just by growing them.
11. Farmers can receiver tax subsidies and other assistance from the federal government for growing corn and other crops required for ethanol production -- and, best of all, these subsidies have only increased over time as the need for ethanol has grown.
12. The process used to turn crops into biofuels is significantly more environmentally friendly than the process used to refine petroleum products, resulting less carbon emissions for each gallon of fuel produced.
These are just a few of the many biofuel facts to take into consideration when looking into alternative energy sources. However, given its broad support from the government, promise of future high-efficiency, and benefits for both rich and developing nations, biofuel holds a large amount of promise as a worldwide alternative to limited petroleum reserves.