Potential of Biofuels in the US

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Biofuels production has had several effects on agriculture, land use, rural economics, and also in environmental aspects. This is because, in one way or another, some agricultural products have had their price increased due to their high demand in the industrial sector, domestic sector, and the energy industry. For instance, the price of corn has gone high because there has been a high demand for corn to be used in ethanol production. On the other hand, this situation has provided economic incentives for some producers to devote additional land to corn production (Gaffigan 2009). This means that there are potential effects of biofuels production in the future. The potential future effects of expanded biofuels production in the U.S also include the production of new energy crops for advanced biofuels. It must be understood that these new crops may affect the production of other crops and livestock on agricultural land.

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The increasing corn ethanol production has had mixed effects on land use, crop selection, and livestock production. For instance, in 2007, increased corn prices led farmers to devote more land for corn and less for soybeans. It is, therefore, necessary to formulate policies that will harmonize the production of energy and food in the same land. Production of biofuels must be encouraged in a controlled manner to reduce overdependence on fossil fuel and at the same time make sure that the acreage of land devoted for agricultural produce is not reduced to the advantage of biofuels production.

Problem statement

The overreliance on fossil fuel as the main source of energy has caused many problems currently. Fossil fuel has been associated with economic and environmental problems. The oil industry is always affected by the politics of the OPEC members (Miller & Spoolman 2010). Thus, if one of the member countries is politically destabilized, oil prices will shoot up thereby leading to inflation. Many countries that rely heavily on imported fossil fuels are usually the hardest hit. Environmental problems caused by the oil industry include pollution. It is important to note that fossil fuel combustion contributes to the increase in carbon dioxide levels. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas. It contributes to global warming and the depletion of the ozone layer. The current climate changes attest to these effects of carbon dioxide production by the combustion of fossil fuels. In addition, sulfur dioxide and carbon dioxide produced by the combustion of fossil fuels in industries and motor vehicles cause acid rain that corrodes man-made structures. The mining of coal, for example, destroys huge areas of land. Thus, fossil fuel also contributes to the destruction of the natural landscape.

For these reasons, alternatives to fossil fuels have to be explored. Among the most effective alternatives are biofuels. Biofuels are used to serve a similar purpose as fossil fuels. In fact, they are more advantageous to use because they cause minimum environmental pollution and are quite desirable for sustainable economic growth. Biofuels can be produced anywhere and a country need not source the raw materials from the international market. Biofuels do not require mining, and therefore do not destroy wide areas of land. These are the reasons that prompted a comprehensive study of biofuels and their potential in the United States.

Biofuels

Biofuels are various types of fuels that are sourced in one way or another from biomass. Taking into consideration that fossil fuel is also biological in nature, it is much difficult to specifically distinguish biofuels from fossil fuels. However, one of the ways by which biofuels can be distinguished from fossil fuels is that biofuels do not add to the stock of carbon dioxide in the atmospheric reservoir. This is because biofuels give up the same amount of carbon they removed from the atmosphere. This suggests that biofuels must be Carbon dioxide neutral.

There are many kinds of biofuels that are being produced currently. They include vegetable oils, biodiesel, bioalcohols, ethanol, biogas and syngas (habmigern 2003). It is important to note that biodiesel was the first alternative energy source to be known by the general public. This fuel can be used by conventional vehicles even without modifications done to the engines. It gains its popularity in contemporary energy industry due to its compatibility with the existing fuel engines technology. Biodiesel is produced from agricultural crops and sugar cane. It is also produced from biomass. Another source of biodiesel can also be vegetable oil.

Another kind of biofuel is biogas. Its chemical composition is actually similar to that of natural gas. This means that biogas can serve the same purpose as natural gas. They are produced from plants and animal wastes. Biomass is also another alternative energy source that is most appropriate for small scale heating. It is made up of woody residue and straw. Bioalcohols such as ethanol are also used as biofuels. Ethanol can be a substitute for gasoline in petrol engines (Hacking 1986). It can be added to petroleum at up to 20% (v/v) without modification to vehicle engines. This makes them viable for use in the energy industry since they are environment friendly and can sustain the economy pretty well.

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Reference list

Gaffigan, M. (2009). Biofuels: Potential Effects and Challenges of Required Increases in Production and Use. United States Government Accountability Office.

Hacking, A. (1986). Economic aspects of biotechnology. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge.

Habmigern. (2003). Biofuels. Web.

Miller, T. & Spoolman, S. (2010). Environmental Science. Yolanda Cossio. Belmont.

Appendix 1

URL for All the Sources Used

Hacking, A. (1986). Economic aspects of biotechnology. Web.

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Miller, T. & Spoolman, S. (2010). Environmental Science. Yolanda Cossio. Belmont. Web.

Gaffigan, M. (2009). Biofuels: Potential Effects and Challenges of Required Increases in Production and Use. United States Government Accountability Office. Web.

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