Are Biofuels A Legitimate Energy Sourse?: A Chemist View

As a chemist one of the most common areas of concern is how to keep the world’s energy supply in check. One of the more popular ideas to reduce traditional energy consumption is by the use of biofuels. Biofuels are great gasoline substitutes if they can be produced in a cost effective manner. So the question is, is this possible or will gasoline always be cheaper?

One of the main problems with biofuels is that they are not compatible with traditional gasoline engines. If we want to truly make a transition to alternative energy, the only way to do it is to make biofuels that can be implemented by any vehicle on the market today.

This is obviously a daunting task as the composition of most biofuels if high in alcohol content which can destroy gasoline engines. We are seeing this today as many engines are being ruined just by 10% ethanol. Imagine what a higher concentration would do to your engine.

One may ask why not change the engine? The simple fact is that such a large scale change would be so costly for most people that they would never see the money saved if this had to be done.

So can we make biofuels that are a straight substitute for gasoline? The answer is yes. The most common way to do this is from the use of burning organic sources such as switchgrass for oils. Once this is done we can refine the oils to produce our fuel.

The main problem with this is that it is a very expensive process at this time. For this to be a viable option we would have to either greatly decrease the cost of this method or see a remarkable increase in gasoline prices which seems unlikely as new oil wells are popping up all over the world as recovery techniques improve.

So as a chemist, in my opinion yes biofuels are completely viable. But I think we are a long ways away from seeing a big overhaul into mainstream energy production.This is of course unless some major breakthroughs are seen, I would expect that gasoline will continue to be the fuel of choice in the world for the time being.

As a chemist in this field know that I will continue to try so that maybe one day we can see the benefits that biofuels can provide.

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