Biofuels are a leading source of renewable energy, particularly as transportation fuels that would replace oil-derived gasoline and diesel. But when you think about it, oil deposits are derived from biomass that has decomposed and been compressed underneath the surface of the earth for millennia. Given that the origin of petroleum is biological, why isn’t oil considered a biofuel? What is the distinction between petroleum and, for example, ethanol or biodiesel? And just what exactly is a biofuel anyway?
These are fair questions worth answering, and I will try to provide some answers here.
First of all, biofuels are essentially defined as being derived from recently dead biomass, as opposed to long dead biomass that gives rise to petroleum. This distinction is not an arbitrary one. In fact, there is sound reasoning behind making a distinction between plants that were harvested ( and thus made “dead” a few months ago) and biomass that “died” millions of years ago.
One of the main purposes of replacing oil-derived fuels and products with bio-based fuels and chemicals is to reduce the net carbon emissions. (Having an alternate fuels source that would keep a lid on the cost of oil supplied by an unfriendly, price-fixing cartel would be another useful purpose of biofuels.) In the case of biofuels produced from sugar cane, corn or plant waste, the biomass replacement occurs in less than a year as a new crop comes in. The new biomass is roughly equivalent to the carbon emitted when that biofuel is burned. Thus, the net carbon emission is near zero from that cycle, and that carbon cycle is complete within a year.
Contrast the situation with corn or sugar-derived biofuels with that of oil. The production of the petroleum requires millions of years. Thus, the replacement cycle time for petroleum that is burned is thousands of millennia rather than the length of a single crop cycle. In other words, it will require millions of years for the carbon emitted by burning oil to be reconstituted into petroleum for creating a second cycle of use as a fuel. It will only take a year or less for the carbon dioxide emitted from burning bio-ethanol to be reconstituted as sugar cane or corn for conversion into a new cycle of biofuel.
Specifically BioDiesel Biodiesel is a form of diesel fuel manufactured from vegetable oils, animal fats, or recycled restaurant greases. It is safe, biodegradable, and produces less air pollutants than petroleum-based diesel.
What does BioDiesel mean to America? Biodiesel is America's first advanced biofuel – a renewable, clean-burning diesel replacement that is reducing U.S. dependence on foreign petroleum, creating green jobs and improving our environment. Made from an increasingly diverse mix of resources such as agricultural oils, recycled cooking oil and animal fats, biodiesel meets the strict specifications of ASTM D6751. source: National Biodiesel Board http://www.biodiesel.org/ The National Biodiesel Board (NBB) is the national trade association representing the biodiesel industry in the United States.
Facts About BioDiesel Domestically produced, renewable fuel Reduced dependence on foreign oil Protected and sensitive waterway safe Biodegradable Reduces carbon pollution by up to 85% Less offensive exhaust smell Lubricates engine parts / extends life of engine Non-explosive at storage tempartures