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MAIN Arrow to Going Green Guides Society Arrow to Going Green Guides Go Green Guides Arrow to Biofuels Biofuels

Corn, a major source of biofuelWhat are biofuels and how are they different from traditional fuel sources?

Put simply, the difference between biofuels and oil (or other fossil fuels) is simply how long the biological material used to create the fuel has been decaying.

When newer organic materials, like corn, are grown specifically to create biofuels they remove carbon from the atmosphere, making them an environmentally sustainable alternative. Environmentalists argue that the amount of carbon removed from the atmosphere is comparable to the amount of carbon released as fuel, making biofuels "carbon neutral".

Today, two of the most common types of biofuel are ethanol and biodiesel. Brazil in particular uses ethanol extensively to power automobiles, derived mainly from sugar cane or vegetable oils that are converted into biofuels.

Biofuels - The pros and cons

also see in Go Green:
blue green algae
Going green with
blue-green algae

As it is, however, ethanol will never fuel all of the world's automobiles. Just to power all the cars in the United States with ethanol would require that a full three quarters of the world's land surface be devoted to growing crops for ethanol production.

Its negative economic impact is also seen in a significant rise in the price of many basic food crops, such as corn, as more and more farmland is converted from food to biofuel production.

Biodiesel is another alternative fuel that is being heavily researched. Biodiesel is made by converting either animal fat or vegetable oil. Like ethanol, one of the main criticisms of biodiesel is that it takes a disproportionate amount of crops to produce a relatively small amount of fuel.

The future of biofuels

However, everyday new discoveries into biofuels research - such as man-made blue-green algae - has sparked renewed interest in biofuels as possibly a more earth-friendly alternative to crop growing.

Algae yields more fuel, and unlike other more traditional crops, requires neither vast tracks of farmland nor fresh water. More research under investigation includes new ways to combine waste management and fuel production — by recycling and converting vast amounts of municipal or agricultural waste to also produce biofuels.

also see -> Hybrid Cars | Electric Cars

More about biofuels around the Web:

Alternative Fuels and Advanced Vehicles Data Center
- US Department of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy portal with extensive information on alternative biofuels, along with alternative fueling station locater, information on current laws and incentives, and industry trends and facts based on data analysis.

Biofuel - Wikipedia - A complete survey of the various types of alternative fuels currently used or under development including ethanol, methanol, biodiesel, propane and more, with photos and related resources.

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