Tag Archives: fossil fuels

Is biofuels better than fossil fuels?

18 Sep

This is extracted from IDEA:

Biofuels help achieve energy independence

Point

The reliance of America and its western allies on conventional fossil fuels, chiefly oil, is a major security issue. Currently 22% of US oil comes from the Middle East, 22% from Africa, and 19% from Latin America1.The past actions of OPEC and the recent willingness of Russia to use its  supplies of natural gas to threaten European states both point to a need to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels2. Oil prices often rise due to instability in the regions where it is produced, which has harmful impacts for consumers around the world. For example, in 2011 the invasion in Libya caused oil prices to rise because of fear of reduced oil production in the region The US and its allies lose leverage over many international actors as its hands are tied due to dependence on oil, as is the case with nuclear proliferation in Iran for example. The US Department of Agriculture determined that the US could produce enough biomass to meet 30% of its energy needs, which in addition to other forms of alternative energy could make a significant impact on oil consumption. Increasing the use of biofuels can therefore contribute to our security by ensuring that more of our energy needs are met from within the country, reducing dependence on foreign suppliers.

1 http://lugar.senate.gov/energy/graphs/oilimport.html 2http://money.cnn.com/2009/01/07/news/international/russia_ukraine/index.htm

Counterpoint

Attempting complete independence from other countries is impossible and undesirable – the world is now too interconnected and interdependent. Prosperity rests upon being able to trade goods and services widely with people in other countries and attempts to retreat from this free market will impoverish us as well as them. Nor are the USA and its western allies scarily dependent upon just one source for their fossil fuel needs – new countries like Angola and Canada have all become major energy suppliers in the past decade[1]. In any case, America’s demand for energy is so great that there is no possibility of achieving energy independence through biofuels. F all of America’s corn was used to produce ethanol, it would still only meet 4% of energy demand[2].

[1]http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2009/03/canadian-oil-sands/kunzig-text

[2] http://www.economist.com/blogs/babbage/2011/06/biofuels

Biofuels are renewable and sustainable in the future.

Point

At present mankind is using up fossil fuel resources at an alarming rate, and often damaging the environment in order to extract them. If we go on relying on fossil fuels they will one day run out, and not only will our descendants no longer have viable energy reserves, but they will also have to cope with the ecological damage coal, oil and gas extraction have inflicted on the earth. Making fuel from crops provides a perfect, sustainable solution. Additionally, biofuels can be mixed with fossil fuels, and eventually replace them, without having to entirely change the infrastructure of countries. Other forms of alternative energy would call for new investment and development just to use them, whereas biofuels can slowly be introduced to cars in higher quantities, and gradually new cars will be designed to run entirely on biofuels. However, overturning the entire system would not be necessary, reducing the cost associated with using biofuels. Biofuels already have a great deal to offer today, but prospects for the future are even more exciting and deserve our support. New crops like Jatropha promise to produce much more energy from a given amount of land1. They also flourish without annual replanting or chemical inputs on marginal land. In the longer term, bio-engineers are working on producing “cellulosic” biofuels biofuels – in which the stems and leaves of plants or trees are used to produce ethanol, not just the fruits or seeds. Cellulosic biofuels would allow much more fuel to be produced from a given amount of land, and could also be made from the waste products of food or timber production, such as straw and woodchip 1. The future prospects for ethanol are great, and thus call for increased investment and development because only then will ethanol truly be a viable alternative.

1. http://www.eia.gov/kids/energy.cfm?page=biofuel_home-basics

 

Counterpoint

For biofuels to be renewable and sustainable, they will have to be grown in mass quantities. Rainforests and grass lands, which naturally soak up carbon, will need to be cut down, ultimately making ethanol that much more environmentally irresponsible. While they may be renewable, the quantity that would have to be grown makes it an unreasonable solution.

 

Biofuels are better for the environment.

Point

Biofuels are the best way of reducing our emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases responsible for global climate change. As with fossil fuels, burning biodiesel or ethanol to drive an engine or generate electricity releases carbon into the atmosphere. Unlike with fossil fuels, however, growing the plants from which biofuels are made takes carbon from the air, so overall the process is carbon neutral1. This means policies to increase the use of biofuels could greatly reduce overall levels of carbon emissions, and so be a major part of tackling global climate change. Since the international community has made reducing climate change a priority, with different climate conferences like Copenhagen, seeking energy alternatives should be at the forefront of their efforts. Biofuels can also help improve local air quality as mixing ethanol with fossil fuels helps meet clean air standards, and overall be one of the tools used to reduce carbon emissions into the atmosphere.

1 http://www.eia.gov/kids/energy.cfm?page=biofuel_home-basics

Counterpoint

The idea that ethanol is carbon neutral is overlooking the carbon emissions associated with growing the crops (energy for the machines) as well as transporting them to and from the processing facilities. Ethanol production consumes 6 units of energy to produce 11. In no world is that efficient or better for the environment.

1 http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/03/050329132436.htm

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