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What is Biofuel?

Biofuel is a fuel (solid, liquid or gas) that is composed of a recently dead biological matter. This is how a biofuel is distinguished from a fossil fuel, since fossil fuels are composed of “long dead” organic matter. In order to be considered a biofuel, the fuel must contain over 80% renewable materials.
Corn Field
    Soybean seeds
The organic matter that makes up biofuel can be obtained from corn, soybeans or various other photosynthetic plants. The specific type of biofuel produced from corn is Ethanol, while the specific type of biofuel produced from soybeans is biodiesel. Another type of renewable fuel that can be used is known as biomass, this is what is meant by recently dead organic matter. Biomass includes wood and other plant and animal matter. An important thing to remember about biofuels is that it is a renewable resource because it is composed of organic matter that can be replenished.

Biofuels have many possible positive effects such as:

  • A reduced dependence on non-renewable fossil fuels for an energy source.
    • By utilizing different photosynthetic plants that can be replenished, the dependence on oil, gas and petroleum can be decreased. As we progress into a future with rising gas prices and a lessening of fossil fuel resources this is an important step that must be taken.
  • Reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
    • While there are some naturally occurring greenhouse gasses, most are human induced. The four main human induced greenhouse gasses are Carbon Dioxide (CO2), Methane (CH4), Nitrous Oxide (N2O) and Fluorinated gasses. These four gasses are a result of different methods of burning fossil fuel; whether it be in vehicles or factories. By burning biofuels there will be less greenhouse gas emissions because when burned (either in a car or in a factory) biofuels burn cleaner. Another benefit to biofuels is the fact that they are biodegradable whereas fossil fuels are not. For more information visit the US Department of Energy page.
  • To create jobs in the United States.
    • With biofuel refineries on the rise, there will be millions of jobs created in these areas. Biofuel production will also be helpful to farmers who can grow the necessary crops.
  • To reduce air pollution through widespread use.
    • Greenhouse gasses contribute to air pollution worldwide. By reducing the amount of fossil fuel burned, air pollution will also be reduced.

For a general overview and more information on biofuels, you can visit the National Renewable Energy Laboratory's (NREL) website.