Thursday, November 8, 2012

Switching to biofuels must not interfere with food production

Biofuels are fuels with excellent potential for global production because they can be produced almost everywhere on our planet from various plants, algae and even waste. These fuels still mostly derive from plant material though lately there seems to be plenty of talk about producing biofuels from other sources, most notably waste because this could lead to positive environmental impact (less pollution in the world).

Biofuels are usually categorized into three main categories: first generation biofuels (made from sugar, starch, vegetable oil), second generation biofuels (made from non-food crops), and third generation biofuels (biofuels from algae).

Biofuels are still heavily involved into food vs. fuel debate because they are still predominantly produced from food crops. Using food crops to produce biofuels could lead to severe increase in food prices and cause even more hunger in the world. This is the main reason why biofuel industry needs to focus more on possible solutions to make production of second and third generation biofuels commercially feasible.

The most talked about biofuel is biodiesel. Biodiesel is environmentally friendlier in comparison to standard diesel fuel because it creates up to 70% fewer emissions than standard diesel. The main problem with biodiesel is that it is still predominantly produced from vegetable oils though lately there has been some talk about focusing more on producing biodiesel from algae.

Switching to biofuels instead of staying with fossil fuels could significantly reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions and help us tackle climate change issue. However, there are several other renewable energy sources that are connected with fewer emissions than biofuels such as solar and wind.

Increasing global biofuel production could lead to improved energy security by decreasing the need for expensive foreign oil import. However, global biofuel production still needs to reach adequate level of sustainability in order not to cause higher food prices and deforestation.

The production of biofuels must not interfere with food production – this is the main rule for any sustainable biofuel production. Food and fuel shouldn't be put into the same category because food must always be more important than fuel- regardless of what is more profitable option and what is not.

The effects of the biofuel production on food are still being heavily debated. In order to avoid future controversies science has major task in making production of second and third generation of biofuels economically viable.