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Renewable energy science fair project:
Advantages of Biofuels




Science Fair Project Information
Title: Advantages of Biofuels
Subject: Renewable Energy
Grade level: Middle School - Grades 7-9
Academic Level: Ordinary
Project Type: Descriptive
Cost: Low
Awards: 2nd place, Canada Wide Virtual Science Fair (2007)
Affiliation: Canada Wide Virtual Science Fair (VSF)
Year: 2007
Link: http://www.odec.ca/projects/2007/sosa7s2/
Short Background

Biomass, biofuels, and vegetable oil pros & cons

Pros

  • Biomass production can be used to burn organic waste products resulting from agriculture. This type of recycling encourages the philosophy that nothing on this Earth should be wasted. The result is less demand on the Earth's resources, and a higher carrying capacity for Earth because non-renewable fossil fuels are not consumed.
  • Biomass is abundant on Earth and is generally renewable. In theory, we will never run out of organic waste products as fuel, because we are continuously producing them. In addition, biomass is found throughout the world, a fact that should alleviate energy pressures in third world nations.
  • When methods of biomass production other than direct combustion of plant mass, such as fermentation and pyrolysis, are used, there is little effect on the environment. Alcohols and other fuels produced by these alternative methods are clean burning and are feasible replacements to fossil fuels.
  • Since CO2 is first taken out of the atmosphere to make the vegetable oil and then put back after it is burned in the engine, there is no net increase in CO2. So vegetable oil does not contribute to the problem of greenhouse gas.
  • Vegetable oil has a higher flash point and is safer than most fossil fuels.
  • Transitioning to vegetable oil could be relatively easy as biodiesel works where diesel works, and straight vegetable oil takes relatively minor modifications.
  • The World already produces more than 100 billion gallons a year for food industry, so we have experience making it.
  • Algaculture has the potential to produce far more vegetable oil per acre than current plants.
  • Infrastructure for biodiesel around the World is significant and growing.

Cons

  • Direct combustion without emissions filtering generally leads to air pollution similar to that from fossil fuels.
  • Producing liquid fuels from biomass is generally less cost effective than from petroleum, since the production of biomass and its subsequent conversion to alcohols is particularly expensive.
  • Some researchers claim that, when biomass crops are the product of intensive farming, ethanol fuel production results in a net loss of energy after one accounts for the fuel costs of fertilizer production, farm equipment, and the distillation process.
  • Direct competition with land use for food production.
  • Current production methods would require enormous amounts of land to replace all gasoline and diesel. With current technology, it is unfeasible for biofuels to replace the demand for petroleum.
  • Growth in vegetable oil production is already resulting in deforestation.
  • Converting forest land to vegetable oil production can result in a net increase in CO2.
  • Demand for vegetable oil used as a fuel may drive up prices of vegetable oils in the food industry
  • Costs to modify existing engines may outweigh fuel cost savings

Source: Wikipedia (All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License)

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