ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Fuel for Thought

Biofuels have their advantages but as the world is learning to its cost that it comes with a burden of its own.

The ongoing energy consumption glut and the simultane-example, are predominantly used as fuel for automotive transous pressure on depleting fossil fuels in the world have portation. Following the example of Brazil, which has utilised resulted in the coming to the fore of developing energy extracted fuel (ethanol) from sugar cane grown in large-scale resources from new sources. Biofuels, the most well known farms, many developed nations (and developing ones) are promoting the growth of crops such as corn, sugar cane, beet, maize and jatropha (for biodiesel extraction) to manufacture biofuel. The reason for the new embrace of biofuels is, of course, the rising cost of crude oil and the need to promote energy independence. It is also being promoted on the somewhat dubious promise of reducing emission of greenhouse gases.

Within a couple of years of the global rush to promote biofuels new questions are being asked about the claimed benefits of these fuels and serious negative impacts are coming to light. One of the claimed advantages of biofuels over fossil fuels is that they do not contribute to global warming because of lower carbon emissions. However, considering that quite a large amount of new land needed to grow crops generating biofuels is being obtained by clearing forests, there is likely to be a net negative greenhouse impact in generating and using biofuels. The other major problem that is now becoming apparent in the large-scale production of biofuels is the fallout of the cultivation of crops for fuel rather than food. With the provision of substantial subsidies in the US for production of ethanol, large areas are now being used to grow corn for fuel rather than for food. This phenomenon of diversion of land to grow biofuel generating crops is one of the important reasons for the current surge in global food prices and shortages across the world.

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