FREMONT, CA: Before renewable energy became commercially feasible, biofuels used to generate a lot of buzz as alternatives to fossil fuels. But the dynamics in the energy sector transformed rapidly over the last decade, which saw the arrival of commercialized solar and wind energy. As a result, the focus has shifted away from biofuels. Currently, there are numerous opportunities, as well as apprehensions, in the use of biofuels as a source of energy. The energy sector also seems undecided when it comes to categorizing biofuels as they cannot be clubbed either with fossil fuels or with environmentally friendly, clean energy sources.
Weighing the potential benefits and disadvantages of biofuels as a source of energy from the perspective of environmental sustainability, as well as economics, is the only way to determine their relevance in today’s competitive energy sector that is headed towards replacing fossil fuels with cleaner options. Biofuels can be considered a renewable source since these are derived from plant and animal biomass. Crop plants that are used in biofuel production can be cultivated to develop a reliable source of energy for application in vehicles. Compared to petrol and diesel, biofuels have less carbon emission. Besides, biofuels are reasonably priced, and hence can find wide adoption.
Despite these benefits, the prospects of pollution cannot entirely be ruled out. Unlike wind and solar, biofuels do not help generate zero-carbon energy. Thus, vehicles using biofuels still contribute to greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Even the manufacturing process for biofuels requires substantial amounts of energy as input. This energy happens to be derived from fossil fuels. Thus, biofuel might look like a sufficiently clean energy alternative, but it also has major drawbacks.
As renewable sources like solar and wind begin contributing to the grid, and transportation systems become electric, the opportunities in biofuels will shrink. However, biofuels are considered to be valuable in industries like aviation. Thus, the question of biofuels’ relevance remains subjective, and although they are renewable, they might satisfy the criteria to be considered as a green option.
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