Advantages: The actual aim of biofuels is to be carbon neutral. Potentially they can reduce greenhouse gas emissions when you compare them to conventional transport fuels, but this ability depends on the way you produce these biofuels. In reality biofuels aren’t carbon neutral because they actually require energy to grow the crops and to convert them into fuel. However, biofuels could still be more environmentally friendly then other fossil alternatives. They can save up to 60% of the carbon emissions compared to fossil fuels, and second generation biofuels can offer savings of about 80%. Another advantage of biofuels is that they save money of drivers. Governments have introduced many incentives to drivers of the well-known green cars who are based on emissions, who come with reduced taxation. And because the petrol prices are rising, if you then would replace the petroleum with a renewable energy source it should actually offer high savings at the pump in the long term, especially when the availability of biofuels will rise.
Disadvantages: However, there have been some arguments that biofuel isn’t as positive as it had been portrayed and thought of. The following points are some of the several concerns about biofuels: * Biodiversity: This has been feared a lot lately, because when adapting more land to produce the crops needed for biofuels, the consequence would be that more habitats would be lost for animals and wild plants. * Food versus fuel debate: Another concern is that if biofuels become attractive for farmers they’ll decide that they may want to grow crops for biofuel production instead of for food production. If less food is produced that will lead to the increase of prices and also cause a rise in inflation. A way to counter this problem is by second generation biofuels which use waste biomass, but then again that will also impact the habitat of many organisms. Due to the food price increase, around 100 million people are at risk and then especially in the developing countries.
* Carbon emissions: Most of the investigations do indicate that by burning biofuels it does actually reduce the greenhouse gas emissions when you would compare it to petroleum and diesel. But lately studies have been published that show that the burning of e.g. corn can contribute as much to nitrous oxide emissions than cooling through fossil fuel savings.
* Non-sustainable biofuel production: Many first generation biofuels aren’t sustainable. And it is necessary to create biofuel production that doesn’t affect the production of food and also what doesn’t affect any other environmental problems. And because there has been lots of criticism of the production of non-sustainable biofuels many governments have switched their support to sustainable biofuels and other alternatives.
Why controversial? Biofuels have been blamed for pushing up the food prices, that they couldn’t meet the environmental standards, they themselves have caused for the demand of water and nitrate fertilizers and they have encouraged the destruction of natural habitats e.g. the rainforest. And still it’s an controversy which governments have been struggling to solve. What has also been revealed is that the companies who actually use biofuels haven’t been able to fully report the sustainability of them. But even though we associate environmental damage with the production of biofuels we should not immediately think that all biofuels are bad. The production of biofuels is still developing, and as new fuel technologies are being made the situation could radically change and we may be able to adjust the impact on the environment to a small percentage.
After having seen the positive and negative sides of biofuels you could wonder is biofuels are really worth it. On one hand they could actually reduce the carbon emissions and help save you some money. But they also negatively impact the habitat of many species and aren’t necessarily efficient enough at producing the energy that they are required to make. So there are two completely different sides to biofuels which explains why the topic biofuels has been so controversial lately in the 21th century and why we are all now discussing if we should go on producing biofuels or not.