Pros and Cons of Biofuels: List of Positives and Negatives

Some Briefs Insights Into The Pros and Cons of Biofuels

By Brittany Cotton, writing on behalf of Microbial Insights

Biofuels are essentially fuels made from plant cellulose, and they differ significantly from traditional fossil fuels like gasoline, which come mainly from oil. Biofuels seem to hold many advantages, with lower cost and greenhouse gas emissions being at the top of that list.

Biofuels are currently being used in a number of vehicles, such as cars and buses. Combustion of biofuels (such as ethanol) creates much less carbon dioxide than combustion of fossil fuels, which is the chief greenhouse gas produced during fossil fuel combustion.

They are considered to be relatively environmentally friendly. Since biofuels are made from renewable sources, they do not contribute to the overuse of the earth’s resources or the pollution of air and water with greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide (CO2).

Here are some pros of biofuels;

Positives: The Pros of Biofuels

Some of the pros include;

Environmentally Friendly

Biofuels are renewable fuels, and therefore they are not contributing to the global warming process like fossil fuels. The process of producing biofuel is carbon-neutral or carbon-negative, depending on the source of biomass used, how it is grown and harvested, and how it is processed. This makes biofuels a cleaner option for generating energy. It also takes less fossil fuel to produce biofuel than refining oil into gasoline or diesel fuel.

Lower Cost

Biofuels cost less than traditional fossil fuels. Land required to grow crops is usually used on less arable land compared to fossil fuels. Biofuels can also be made from plant cellulose and other biomass crops for an efficient source of energy; hence is cheaper.

No Regulation to Stop Growth

Since biofuels do not come from fossil fuels, the government does not have to regulate the growth of biofuel plants like it does with fossil fuel plants, which limits emissions in this area by a significant amount. With fossil fuels, the cost of producing oil and gas is at least partly priced by the carbon emissions that come with producing them. As a result, there is pressure to reduce carbon emissions to discourage fossil fuel production as much as possible. But because biofuels do not come from fossil fuels, the government does not have to restrict their growth.

Making Use of Waste

Biofuels are made from crops that otherwise would have been used for food. If these crops were used for energy instead of food, it should reduce the amount of food we need to produce, lowering costs and increasing the efficiency of our use of resources. However, this method still has potential problems, as it could lead to increased food prices if crop prices increase.

Generates Organic Fertilizer

The most conventional method of farming is still agriculture or agriculture based on organic material such as compost. Organic material can be converted into organic fertilizer, which can be used to raise plants. Organic fertilizer is effective in growing crops and trees and reduces air and water pollution because it contains no toxic chemicals.

Use of Less Land

Growing crops for biofuel requires less land than creating oil from fossil fuels. In addition, biomass crops can be grown using marginal lands that could not be used for other purposes. Biofuels will take up the carbon dioxide released by burning fossil fuels rather than contributing to their release.

Prevents Health Issues and The Loss of Biodiversity

Biodiversity refers to the number of species and their variety in an ecosystem; a loss of biodiversity can reduce the productivity of an ecosystem and make it more susceptible to disease. The biofuel process helps reduce biodiversity loss by using crop residues, which are organic materials left over after processing food. These will not be used for food and will not be lost during the production process.

It also reduces health risks because it uses less toxic chemicals and produces less pollution than fossil fuels.

Use of Diluted Fuel

Biofuels can be added to liquid petroleum to increase the energy content and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Large amounts of biofuel are used in Diesel engines, which are still being produced and sold in large numbers. This will reduce the amount of fossil fuel needed to transport goods and produce electricity, making it a good option for producing energy from renewable sources.

Encourages A Circular Economy

Plant-based biofuels, such as ethanol from corn, can be used in gasoline-powered vehicles. This makes it possible to use the same fuel for transportation and electricity generation, much like we use the same water for both drinking water and wastewater treatment.

Reduced Greenhouse Emissions

Biofuels improve the energy efficiency of the production and combustion of fossil fuels, which translates into less carbon dioxide emitted into the air as a result of burning these fuels. In addition, biofuels are made from plant cellulose, a renewable source of energy that does not deplete non-renewable resources or release carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases when combusted.

A Healthy Alternative To Cooking For Developing Areas

Biofuels have become an alternative cooking fuel for people in developing countries, in a similar way that oil is used as a cooking fuel in developed countries. Bioenergy is an alternative to petroleum-based fuels because it can be used to cook and heat homes. Biofuels are also often the most affordable energy source for communities, making them useful for those in less developed areas.

Path through a corn field under a blue sky: Pros and Cons of Biofuels
Photo by Stefano Marinelli on Unsplash

Downsides: The Cons of Biofuels

Some of the cons include the following;

Contains Impurities

Biofuels are made from plant material, and this process has natural impurities such as salt, vitamins, minerals, and nitrogen. These impurities can cause problems if they are overloaded in the biofuel. For example, if over 50 percent of corn grain used to make biofuel is contaminated with nitrogen, then there will be excess nitrogen in the fuel. This can cause harm to people that handle the fuel or consume it because it will cause acidity for a few days after being consumed.

Few Technological Advancements

The technology needed to make biofuels has not advanced as quickly as other energy production technologies, leading to the development of methods that are sometimes less efficient and less safe than already available technologies. However, this is slowly changing as biofuel production technology and methods are becoming more advanced.

Corrosion

Biofuels are organic, which means they are susceptible to corrosion. This is more of a problem when biofuel contains more impurities and requires more cleaning before it can be used.

Reliance On Agriculture

Since biofuels are made from crops, their quality and quantity rely heavily on the climate and other environmental factors that affect crops, such as rainfall and humidity. As a result, it is difficult to get consistent quality from biofuels because the farming process can change with every season. Biofuels are also limited by where they can be grown. For example, biodiesel production from soybean oil can only be done in countries with warm climates.

Potential For Increased Food Prices

Crops have many uses, such as producing food and livestock feed. Increasing the goal for biofuel production could result in less land being used for other purposes. Because of the potential for higher fuel prices, the demand for meat could increase, which would lead to more food being used to feed livestock. The increased demand for grains could also lead to higher prices of food.

Temperature Impact on Biogas Production

Biogas production has a significant temperature impact on the environment and the energy that it produces. This can result in volatile weather conditions, causing the temperature to fluctuate and producing lower volumes of gas. There can also be an impact on water quality, depending on how much water is used for biogas production and how much rain falls during the process.

Health And Safety

Biofuels are organic and sustainable, which means that they produce no toxic compounds when combusted. However, the plants from which they are made can result in air pollutants and pollutants of other types when used to make biofuels because it takes a lot of energy to process these materials. If a fungus or mold develops on the biofuel during processing, it could cause health problems by releasing old waste products into the air.

Broken And Underdeveloped Machines

Biofuels need to be processed, which can result in broken or underdeveloped machines. When the processing goes wrong and a large amount of material is contaminated, the cost associated with replacing machines can become very high. It may not be worth it for companies that make biofuel.

Limited Production Capacity

The capacity to produce biofuels is limited because the process of making them uses a lot of energy. There are some large-scale biofuel production facilities that have the capacity to produce millions of gallons per year, and they can operate 365 days per year. However, most plants only operate on a small scale, which means that their capacity is limited. This makes it difficult for them to operate during times when demand for biofuels is high.

Final Thoughts on the Pros and Cons of Biofuels

In conclusion, biofuels can be seen as either a very beneficial or a very harmful energy source option. It does not have many negative impacts on the environment, and it can be made from renewable and sustainable resources. However, some biofuels are not always safe to use and have dangerous chemicals that can adversely affect the environment.