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Saturday, February 4, 2012

Can Biofuels Be Sustainable?



“Can Biofuels Be Sustainable?”
    The concept of biofuels as a sustainable resource is quite possibly the most important environmental question one could ask.  A question of such complex nature deserves ample research and careful consideration.  Especially subjective is the use of the word sustainable.  In this context, it is meant to be taken quite literally.  However, it is my interpretation that quite simply:  YES.  Biofuels CAN be sustainable.  Unfortunately, society demands an explanation of an ironically less utilitarian nature.
The simple “yes” answer that I gave before can be summed up rather simply.  The question of biofuel is inferring a comparison to that of conventional means of generating mass energy, being coal, oil and natural gas.  We know that eventually these nonrenewable resources will run out, leaving us feeling rather empty.  However, by using various forms of biofuels, we can rest assure that as long as we grow the necessary crops, our energy needs will be secure, hence, the simplistic nature of biofuels’ sustainability.
Sadly, more often than not, the definition of “sustainable” is skewed.  Within the article, we are given many examples of why or how rather biofuels at this stage of the game are financially upside down.  This brings up a critical issue that most novel concepts must in some way address.  I am of course referring to the concept of “is this going to pay for itself?”  I call it the “is this going to pay for itself?” concept because that’s what is most commonly thought of, voiced, and ultimately what makes people’s minds for them in terms of political and economic thinking.  When thought of rationally, this makes very little sense.  For instance, does a sports car “pay for itself”?  No?  Why would you expect clean energy to do the same?  This absurdity lends itself nicely to the question of biofuels.

http://bookstore.teriin.org/images/books/Biofuel-Cover.jpg

    Can biofuels be sustainable?  Yes.  Can they be expensive?  You bet they can.  But in the long run, the sustainable nature of biofuels has less to do with economics and more to do with climate change, energy security and overall quality of life.

Climate Change
It is known that human activity is contributing significantly to the amount of carbon being released into the atmosphere.  Technically, the rate at which this is happening as a result of our non-renewable energy use is unsustainable.  Biofuels harness the power of perhaps nature’s greatest gifts, while emitting up to 80% less greenhouse gas into the atmosphere.  In terms of climate change, it is apparent that biofuels are the most sustainable solution to conventional woes of current industrious achievement.  Also of great importance to be noted is that there are little to no requirements of change on the behalf of industry itself.  Only the fuel itself is what changes, not the machines, nor the operators used to carry out given tasks.
Climate change is certainly the skeleton of the environmental model we examine today.  It is the effect in cause and effect.  Without consequences of this nature, perhaps we would go on using fossil fuels and other nonrenewable sources until the last drop was had.  Ironically, it is climate change that has communicated many of the dangers associated with the burning of non-renewables and thus, given us more reason to seek alternatives. 

Energy Security
            The future of the world’s energy needs has been more than hazy over the last century.  Questions about where fuel would come from to power our machines in the coming years are important ones that aren’t likely to disappear without proper research and development of biofuels.
            Biofuels offer a very simple solution in the ways of energy security.  As long as its respective crops are being grown, it will continue to provide energy.  This is the very definition of renewable energy and in turn offers undoubtedly the most yield for the least amount of energy input as well.
            In America, many believe that we have already tapped the majority of our oil reserves.  Biofuels provide an alternative that perhaps America would stand to benefit from the most.  America’s farmlands are rich and vast.  If ample amounts were devoted to biofuel crops, not only would America’s energy needs be met, but they’d be met in an environmentally responsible and sustainable manner.

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