The Wall Street Journal reported in 2009 that the biofuel industry in the U.S. was “running on empty.” The National Biodiesel Board stated that nearly two-thirds of biodiesel production capacity sat unused, pummeled by the recession and by what were then falling oil prices. Three years later, biofuels have still not taken their rightful place as a viable alternative to fossil fuels, despite the many advantages that they offer.
Where do biofuels come from?
Biofuels are made from sources like corn, grass, seeds and animal byproducts. They can be used as fuel sources by themselves or blended with traditional fuels. However, biofuels do have chemical differences that make them burn differently from fossil fuels. In some types of engines, they can be corrosive and can cause damage.
How do biofuels affect global warming?
For now, biofuel is the only alternative fuel that have completed all of the health effects testing requirements put forth by the Clean Air Act. Biofuels, according to research, can cut net carbon dioxide emissions by as much as 78 percent. When you use biodiesel in a standard diesel engine, carbon monoxide, particulate matter and unburned hydrocarbons are significantly reduced. Burning biodiesel also reduces acid rain components like sulfur oxide and sulfates.
How can I use them more often?
Most gasoline that you are already purchasing contains up to a 10 percent concentration of biofuel. Blends with higher biofuel concentrations may require special engines or devices. To take advantage of biofuels, you first need to check your car manual or the manufacturer’s instructions for your engine. The instructions will tell you whether you can use biofuels safely and in what concentrations you can use them.
E85 is the most common alternative biofuel blend offered at gas stations and contains a high concentration of ethanol. However, these fuels with high ethanol concentrations can only be used with flex-fuel vehicles. You can also use biodiesel blends, which are made from plant or animal matter that has been blended with heating oil or diesel. Again, read the manufacturer’s guidelines for your engine or your home heating system before attempting to use a biofuel blend.
What are the disadvantages of using biofuels?
Biofuels can have a solvent effect which causes them to release deposits that have accumulated on tank walls and pipes within your car or heating system. Therefore, you will have to watch and make sure that the released deposits do not clog your filters in the first days that you use biofuels. Also, at this time, biodiesel still costs twice as much at the pump as traditional gasoline.
Currently, biofuels are plagued by low supply and high prices. In China, for example, the government has set a goal of using five million tons of ethanol by 2016. However, a raw materials shortage is making meeting that goal unlikely. Despite their many advantages, biofuels will not be competitive in the marketplace until supplies increase and prices drop substantially.
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