Term Paper: Biofuel the Search for Alternative

Pages: 8 (2302 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 7  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Energy  ·  Buy This Paper


[. . .] One of the most controversial aspect of biofuel is the debate over food vs. fuel. One of the main problems of problems with the production of ethanol in particular is that the crops are destroyed in the process and as such they cannot be consumed by human being or livestock.

An article published in the journal Renewable Energy argues explains that some experts in the field of alternative energy have called for proactive and simultaneously cautious approach to large-scale biofuel cultivation and a rigorous debate on the desirability of biofuels as a major energy source. Ceteris paribus, "to be a viable alternative, a biofuel should provide a net energy gain, have environmental benefits, be economically competitive, and be producible in large quantities without reducing food supplies" (Srinivasan, 951).

The problem of biofuel decreasing the food supply is not just an imagined one, in some areas biofuels are considered to be unsustainable. For instance in certain areas of Indonesia is unsustainable because of the impact it has on peat lands and the rain forest. This is also true in South America where the cultivation of soybeans has greatly diminished the biodiversity once present in the Amazon. However, experts also concede that the impact of the production of biofuels on the food supply is dependent upon cultivation practices (Blanco & Azqueta).

The article further state biofuels will not be able to serve a replacement for crude oil without having a negative impact on food supplies. The author explains that "dedicating all U.S. corn and soybean production to biofuels would meet only 12% of gasoline demand and 6% of diesel demand, and would aggravate the uncertainty of supplies, compared to imported oil (Srinivasan, 951)."

In addition on a Globally scale corn, wheat, sorghum, rice, sugarcane, cassava and sugarbeet, compose 42% of the cropland, and using the entire supply of these crops to produce biofuels would only satisfy sbout half of the global gasoline consumption (Srinivasan). In addition, some environmentalist have argued that clearing land for the purposes of producing crops for biofuels and the resulting loss of grasslands, forests, peat and lands would actually contribute to environmental crisis.

In addition to the problems associated with the cultivation of the crops needed for biofuel, there are also other disadvantages associated with biofuels. Cost is also more significant as it pertains to the production of certain biofuels such as biodiesel. An article published by the United States Department of Energy asserts that forms of biodiesel including soybean oil and yellow grease still cost more to produce than petroleum. The following table (Radich) contains the exact cost differences.

It is obvious form this chart that both soybean oil and yellow grease are more expensive to produce than petroleum. This is a major disadvantage associated with the use of biofuels associated with biofuels. At the current time there seems to be no viable way to lower the cost of producing biofuels.

Overall it is apparent that biofuels do not serve as a silver bullet as it pertains to relieving the western world from reliance on foreign oil. Although it appears that biofuel has the advantage of reducing gas emissions, it is also true that the cultivation and production techniques used to create biofuel can also have a negative impact on the environment. In addition, biodiesel costs more to produce than petroleum.


The purpose of this discussion was to examine biofuel as a source of alternative energy. The research focused on determining the impact that biofuel may have on the current energy crisis. The research suggest that there are many advantages associated with biofuels. These advantages include renewable resource, domestic supply and lower emissions. These advantages make biofuels an attractive prospect for addressing the energy crisis. However there are also disadvantages associated with the use of biofuels. These disadvantages include production costs and the impact that cultivation has on the environment. It is obvious that the utilization of biofuels in the energy crisis will continue to be an issue for years to come.

Works Cited

Biofuels. 29 November 2008. http://www.alternative-energynews.info/technology/biofuels/

Biofuels & Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Myths vs. Facts." U.S. Department of Energy. 29 November 2008. http://www.energy.gov/media/BiofuelsMythVFact.pdf

Blanco Maria Isabel, Azqueta Diego. Can the environmental benefits of biomass support agriculture? - the case of cereals for electricity and bioethanol production in northern Spain. Energy Policy 2008;36:357-66.

Ethanol Car Highs: An Endlessly Renewable Resource. 29 November 2008. http://www.kbb.com/kbb/green-cars/articles.aspx?BlogPostId=330

Ethanol: Myths and Realities. 29 November 2008. http://www.businessweek.com/technology/content/may2006/tc20060519_225336.htm

Radich, Anthony, Biodiesel Performance, Costs, and Use. United States Department of Energy. 29 November 2008. http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/analysispaper/biodiesel/index.html

Srinivasan, Sunderasan. "The food v. fuel debate: A nuanced view of incentive structures." Renewable Energy 34 (2009) 950-954 [END OF PREVIEW]

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