As we all know, our use of fossil fuels could be causing potentially irreparable damage to our environment, and is a major factor in climate change. These carbon emitting, non-renewable resources are used to power everything from the car you drive each day, to the the screen you’re using to read this blog. Due to the nature of fossil fuels, there is a growing demand for an alternative; one that is both more efficient and renewable.
greendealshop.com are leading the way in helping homes in England and Wales enjoy some of the many energy saving measures that can be installed in your home. We also want to help everyone reduce their carbon footprint and lead a greener lifestyle, so we’ve made this guide to introduce to one of our favourite alternatives: biofuel.
What is Biofuel?
To put it simply, biofuel is a type of fuel that we get from different types of plants. In essence, it is the act of producing fuel from anything that uses carbon fixation through the process of transesterification. Confused? Let us explain this further.
Carbon fixation is the process that converts inorganic carbon into an organic compound. For instance, most plant life will use carbon dioxide as part of their growth in the same way we use oxygen. This carbon dioxide is then converted into oxygen that is released by them again, or in some cases is retained to further help the plant feed and grow. When we turn these plant materials into a source of energy, they are referred to as biofuel.
Sunflower oil, palm oil, kernel and rapeseed oil are the most commonly produced biofuel sources. This is done by a process called transesterification, which is as complicated to explain as it is to say out loud. Essentially, this separates two key aspects of the organic material Methyl Ester; the chemical name for biodiesel, and Glycerin; a material that is used in a number of cosmetic supplies such as soap.
What can it do?
Biofuel can act as a replacement or supplement to the petrol and diesel that we use to power our cars and other machinery. Whilst this may seem strange, an interesting fact is that Henry Ford originally designed his historic Model T to run on ethanol, the original biofuel. Ethanol is an alternate fuel to petrol that burns cleaner, but only produces half the energy. The consequence of this means you’ll be using twice as much fuel.
Ethanol also produces more ozone and smog. While some biofuels offer a great green alternative to fossil fuels, such as biodiesel, they just don’t provide the same amount of energy. This is why many simply choose to blend biodiesel with their regular diesel fuel.
Whilst they may not pack as much power, biofuels are much easier to produce which makes them cheaper to buy. Many cars will need to be modified to use a complete tank of this carbon reducing fuel, but substances such as biobutanol can actually already be used in regular petrol-fuelled cars.
Are they the next big thing?
It is unlikely that biofuels will completely replace fossil fuels as our source for power. That’s not to say, however, that they won’t play a big role in reducing our reliance on petrol and diesel. In fact, they already are.
According to biodiesel.org, many car manufacturer warranties already accept a blending of diesel and biodiesel in their cars. They estimate that by 2022, they will have 10% of the diesel market using a biodiesel alternative.
The main issue, however, is that we currently don’t have the food supply to provide a large enough amount of material to process biofuel. This, combined with car manufacturers still relying on fossil fuels for the majority of their fuel, make it difficult to see this change happening soon. Perhaps in the future we’ll have a hydrogen or lithium ion battery powered hybrid that also uses biofuel.
Biofuel, a growing alternative
As we become more conscious of the impact we have on the environment, we’re looking more towards renewable alternatives for our current carbon-heavy fossil fuels. With this increased interest, there’s more of a market for alternative fuels, but until we begin to fully embrace their production and regular use, they will remain largely an interest of hobbyists and devoted environmentalists.
If you’re interested in seeing how you could benefit from biofuels, you could get your car modified, websites such as biofuel.org.uk provide some of the latest biofuel news in the UK, and biofuelfillingstations.co.uk is a growing database of the many biofuel stations popping up around the country.
Do you use biofuels already? Do you think they could replace fossil fuels? Let us know in the comments below, or get in touch with us on Twitter @greendealshop.