Fossil fuels like gasoline and coal were once the primary source of energy everywhere. However due to soaring costs, shrinking reserves, and the harmful effect of fossil fuels on the atmosphere, other sources of environment friendly energy producers are being looked into.
Biofuels or fuels from biomass can be described as “solid, liquid or gaseous fuel obtained from biological matter and fossil fuels.” They consist of plant and animal waste which when decomposed is converted to energy. Therefore it is nothing but recycling of organic waste. It is inexpensive, does not pollute the environment, and reduces global warming. Biofuels can be produced from plants and their derivatives, and used to run automobiles, in cooking, and heating homes. Methane from animal waste, wood and wood shavings, landfill gas from decomposition of organic waste, and ethanol from plants are termed biofuels.
Landfills are a great source of energy. Landfill gas comprises of methane and carbon dioxide produced when the biomass or organic waste in landfills decomposes. Landfill gas was used as fuel in the late 1970s in the US, and recognized as an alternate energy source. The methane can be put to use to generate power in an electric generator.
Crops like corn have high starch content while sweet sorghum, sugar beet, and sugar cane contain a high level of sugar. They are allowed to ferment with yeast acting as a catalyst to produce ethanol (ethyl alcohol). When vegetable oils like soy bean, palm, algae, to name a few, are heated, they become less viscous and can be used in some converted diesel engines or refined further chemically to form biodiesel.
Wood gas, ethanol or methanol is obtained from wood and their by products. Ethanol is used as an additive to gasoline in vehicles.
Biobutanol, a 4-carbon alcohol is obtained from biomass. It is widely used as an industrial solvent in enamels and lacquers. It is also blended with gasoline and ethanol and used in automobiles.
Bio gas from anaerobic digesters that use animal waste or manure in farms can be converted into energy for heating or to generate electricity. The liquid slurry that is a by product of the process is used as a fertilizer in the farm.