The Negative Effects of Using Biofuels

Abstract

Biofuels have recently started an uprising. There are many cons and pros to it. Biofuels are not expensive to produce, however importing them would be far more expensive than natural gas. In order to produce biofuels, countries would need to reduce the amount of space allowed for food crops. In a world where there’s already in a shortage of food, there is certainly no need for less food crops. Countries can always deforest their land to produce fertile land where needed, however that leads to throwing off the natural ecosystem, emission of greenhouse gasses from energy used to deforest, and agricultural pollution. Another problem with biofuels is pests. Pests that only eat one type of crop may destroy a whole crop field, even with pesticides and GMO’s, some are bound to be resistant. Last but not least, when biofuels are burned they produce carbon dioxide adding to the growing problem of global warming

What Are Biofuels and Why Are the Disadvantageous

Biofuels are produced by living organisms, mainly plants. Bioenergy is usually produced through photosynthesis and is therefore highly renewable, which is something that can potentially solve the worlds increasing need for fuel while the amount of fossil fuel diminishes. Turning biofuels into liquids is a much easier process in comparison to fossil fuels. Two types of biofuels we are familiar with include ethanol and biodiesel. Ethanol comes from fermentation and yes, it is used in our drinkable alcohol however it has also been modified to be a fuel through gasification. Biodiesel is made through combining methanol and cooking oils or animal fats. Biodiesel is used to reduce vehicle emissions. Biofuels are the new future but before we jump in to them we must know how they work and the disadvantages of them.

Cons of Biofuels

Although Biofuels are the new thing and they can easily be regenerated in comparison to fossil fuels, just like fossil fuels, they also have cons to their productions and use. Biofuels can are not readily available everywhere, deprive the world of land used for food, lead to deforestation and an outbreak of pests.

Regions

Biofuels are not like fossil fuels, they are not readily there to be extracted. Biofuels come from crops, and crops have to be grown where conditions are fertile. Places without these conditions, such as many parts of Africa, northern Europe, some parts of Canada and even the United States own Alaska,  would have to import biofuels and cause them to be dependent upon places that can produce them. Crops need water to grow, the world is already in short supply of water so biofuels would just shorten that supply. A mass production of biofuels will eventually cut off all native plants to an area, threatening the ecosystem around that particular area.

Food Crops

As everyone knows, world hunger is a growing problem. If biofuels become the new thing then countries are going to have to sacrifice land that could be used as land for food crops. Although the world has a lot of unused fertile land not many countries have the resources to grow food. Countries where people are at risk for hunger is a import whatever food they can afford. However if biofuels production goes up, land prices will go up, forcing farmers to increase their price to cover the cost of their land. So let’s just make more land by cutting down forests right?

Deforestation

An easy fix to a short supply of land may be to just cut down some forests. Deforestation causes a loss of ecosystems and natural habitats or animals and microorganisms and the loss of native plants. Natural forests can remove carbon dioxide easier than biofuel crops since forests trap carbon dioxide and is not released into the atmosphere by burning. Along with the carbon dioxide emitted by burning biofuels, carbon dioxide would be emitted even prior to growing them due to the energy required to deforest the area. The production of carbon dioxide is only furthering the problem of global warming. Not all soil is fertile to biofuels so fertilizers will be used to give nutrients the plants need. The use of fertilizer can cause pollution to the surrounding areas through rain runoff and in turn further pollution our water supply. Our water supply is already very costly to make drinkable, with further added pollution it will require more time and money to make drinkable.

Monoculture

Monoculture is the means of producing a mass amount of one crop in one area to yield more product which is what we want when producing biofuels. However monoculturing leads to an unbalance within the ecosystem. Pests are often seen as disruptive to crops, but they are an essential part of the ecosystem balance. By using a monoculture mechanism pests who feed off a certain plant will move to wherever that plant is and will cause an outbreak, destroying the whole field. There can be two solutions to this, pesticides can be used or the crops can become genetically modified (GMO). The problem with these two solutions however is that some pests can be resistant to the pesticide or GMO.

Conclusion

Biofuels may be cheaper to produce and will always be available but the production will often times harm the environment in one way or another. Rather than just jump right in, biofuels should be something the world eases into.

References

  1. Biofuels Basics. (n.d.). Retrieved March 07, 2016, from http://www.nrel.gov/learning/re_biofuels.html

  2. Biofuels Basics. (n.d.). Retrieved March 07, 2016, from http://www.nrel.gov/learning/re_biofuels.html

  3. Petrou, E. C., & Pappis, C. P. (2009). Biofuels: A Survey on Pros and Cons. Energy & Fuels Energy Fuels, 23(2), 1055-1066. Retrieved March 03, 2016, from http://www.udel.edu/igert/JournalClub/JC6.pdf