When many people think about biofuel, the very first thing that comes to mind is the Corn Ethynol that has seen so much fierce debate and created as much concern among advocates for the poor as it has by environmentally concerned people. Fortunately, while Corn Ethynol is a biofuel, it is not THE biofuel and not even close to being the only option for alternative fuel sources.
In many parts of the world it is common for people to raise their own livestock. Livestock, by its very nature, is going to produce waste. However, in poor nations, it is not viable to allow anything more than absolutely necessary to go to waste … including the animal waste. Such waste is often used for the creation of fertilizers to help grow even more crops and more food sources but there are other uses for it as well.
As the technology becomes more prevalent and the prices drop, many people are actually storing their waste in “dump” cylinders which have strategically placed baffles and valves as well as the ability to filter the waste much the same as a septic system would. The methane, being the lightest component, floats to the top of the tank where it is stored. The valve operates as both a safety feature to prevent the pressurization of the methane beyond miniscule amounts in addition to being the release valve to allow the methane to flow to the home or other location where it is used for power, heat, cooking and even lighting in some areas.
You may remember hearing about the cars that run on used cooking oil? Since these cars are running on a product that has already been used and would otherwise be disposed of anyhow, it is difficult to imagine that there could be much controversy over such use but there does seem to be among many people who remain firmly convinced that only the fossil fuels will run in their cars.
Biogas and biodiesel are already in common use around much of the world. While the bio components may vary, they do help to greatly reduce the reliance on more traditional fossil fuels. At this relatively young stage of their existence, they have not been able to greatly reduce the cost of fuels but they are in common use in much of Asia and parts of Europe as well.
Again, there may be some controversy when the plants used to create the biofuels are also a food source for people as well but the entire concept of the biofuel industry should not be set aside simply because of those concerns. Rather, alternative plants should be considered when you are looking at alternative fuel and biofuel sources. Great promise has been shown with many different types of plants including sagebrush, algae and others.
Rather than throwing the proverbial baby out with the bathwater, we need to reconsider what we are using and look for new and improved methods of doing the same things more efficiently. In short, biofuels are any fuels that are made with plant life and despite the limits of what you see on the news; it is about much more than driving the price of federally subsidized corn through the roof. Biofuels are all about finding viable and sustainable alternatives to the fossil fuels that we rely on so heavily at present.