In a nutshell, the term bio-fuel refers to an organically based fuel as opposed to a fossil based fuel. Derived from renewable resources such as plants, animals, or their by-products, bio-fuel can be produced from commonly known substances including corn, vegetable oil, yard and garden waste, and even manure. Through processing, bio-fuel is an alternative source for producing heat, steam, and power.
Also known as biomass, bio-fuel can be in the form of a solid, gas, or liquid state. Examples of solid bio-fuel derivatives include sawdust, wood, agricultural waste, along with charcoal, and non-food crops such as clover, grass, and millet. Syngas is the gaseous form of bio-fuel, while the most popular forms of liquid bio-fuel are ethanol and biodiesel, Europe’s most commonly used bio-fuel.
Biodiesel is a clean burning fuel originating from corn, vegetable oils (even recycled waste oil from fast food restaurants), or animal fat (such as that from chickens or cows). In 2005, Europe produced almost one billion gallons of biodiesel fuel; it is estimated that the production of ethanol within the United States would create approximately 2,000 jobs per every 100 million gallons generated.
Bio-fuels can be divided into three categories:
- First generation bio-fuels consisting of those made from starch, sugar, vegetable oil, animal fats; concerns have been raised over the growing of crops for fuel instead of for human consumption
- Second generation bio-fuels are those derived from non food crops such as bamboo, hemp, and switchgrass; still under development are biohydrogen and DMF which is derived from cellulose
- Third generation bio-fuels are those based on algae fuel, also known as oilgae; an algae crop production is low maintenance, and when compared to a soybean crop of the same size, algae can generate up to 30 times more energy than the crop of soybeans
According to the Energy Future Coalition, the benefits of using of bio-fuel are:
- It helps to prevent global warming, as it recycles, not produces, carbon dioxide
- reduced omission particulates
- in a blended form, bio-fuel can reduce toxic compounds found in gasoline
- reduced costs, for example, a crop of native switchgrass is hardy, drought-resistant, and requires less water & care than food crops
A study cited by the Energy Future Coalition states that “by 2050, bio-fuel theoretically could supply 65% of the world’s current energy consumption.”
In relation to boating, biodiesel is biodegradable, fish friendly and user friendly. The exhaust fumes emitted are not as strong and the flash point temperature of biodiesel is higher than that of regular diesel. In the majority of cases, biodiesel can be used instead of regular diesel fuel with no engine modifications.
The cost of bio-diesel is relatively the same as that of petroleum based diesel fuel; during the summer of 2009, bio-diesel prices rose approximately .15¢ over regular diesel but in many countries bio-diesel remains consistently less expensive.
Based in the UK, Biofuel Review is an online publication providing daily international information on the bio-fuel industry. The website features a ‘book shop’ section where reviews are offered on a variety of books pertaining to field of bio-fuel.