Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Let's Switch to Biofuels


But will it save America? It seems simple: growning plants and extracting energy from their cellulose. According to a recent article in Wired, though, its not that simple and at present relatively costly. Too costly for us to switch from oil to biofuels. Some energy companies are extracting biofuels from corn and sugarcane, but they produce only about 30% more energy than it takes to process them. This certainly isn't enough to satisfy our addiction to oil, which required about 1 billion gallons of oil a year. This weeks blog asks students to explore the issue of extracting energy from our earth's biomass.

Questions:
1. Briefly discuss 3 sources for biofuels.
2. Describe 2 advantages and 2 disadvantages of using biofuels.
3. Describe the process of extracting energy from the Earth's biomass.
4. Discuss how they are using genetic engineering and directed evolution to improve the process and make it economically viable.
5. What changes would we need to make to our agricultural and industrial infrastructures in order to deploy biofuels?

http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/view/id/193
One Molecule Could Cure Our Addiction from Oil - Wired
http://www.wired.com/science/planetearth/magazine/15-10/ff_plant?currentPage=all
Alternative Energy News - Biofules
http://www.alternative-energy-news.info/technology/biofuels/
The False Hope of Biofuels
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/06/30/AR2006063001480.html

11 comments:

AFAbaseball said...

1) Three types of biofuels are E-85 ethanol, biodiesel, and hydrogen. E-85 ethanol is produced from corn. It is a mixture of denatured ethanol and gasoline, and E-85 has an octane rating of 100 to 105. Biodiesel is made from vegetable oil and animal fats, and is biodegradable, non-toxic and does not produce toxic vapors or exhaust emissions. Hydrogen is usable in vehicles after undergoing electrochemical conversion or combustion.

2) Two advantages of biofuels are decreased greenhouse gas emissions and having renewable energy sources. Two disadvantages of biofuels are they can be more expensive than petroleum and producing biofuels such as biodiesel and ethanol on large scales could be devastating to the environment because of over harvesting and fertilizing.

3) To extract energy from the earth’s biomass we need an abundant organic molecule. The most abundant organic molecule on earth is cellulose, so to extract a useable fuel from cellulose you take a plant and extract the cellulose. Add some enzymes and convert the cellulose molecules into sugars. Ferment the sugar into alcohol. Then distill the alcohol into fuel.

4) To make ethanol an affordable fuel scientists are trying to engineer cellulase production into a sugar-fermenting microbe like yeast or modify a cellulase-producing organism to make it ferment sugar.

5) We need to change our agricultural and industrial infrastructures to deploy biofuels by building pipelines and storage facilities to accommodate the different physical properties of biofuels. Also we need to find a way to grow enough material without destroying the environment by over fertilizing or over working the ground.

Colin K. said...

1) 3 different sources of Biofuels are bioalcohols, BioDiesel, and BioGas. Bioalcohols are also known as biologically produced alcohols such as ethanol. They are produced by microorganisms and enzymes through fermentation. BioDiesel is made from oils and fats which use transesterification to compose mineral diesel. The VW in Germany has been trying to make the switch to Biodiesel. Finally, BioGas is made through the process of anaerobic digestion of organic materials through anaerobes.
2) Two advantages of using biofuels are the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions as well as the reduction of fossil fuel use. Two disadvantages of biofuels are that with the production of so many biofuels such as ethanol, the prices of food go up. Also, with this comes inflation. Also, the feedstock’s for biofuels must be replenished frequently.
3) We can use cellulose to extract energy from the earth’s biomass. Since it is one of the most abundant factors on the planet and is commonly found in plants, it is easy to find and use. Once you add enzymes to make it sugar, and then ferment that to make alcohol, then you have your fuel.
4) They are using genetic engineering and directed evolution by making it like the process above, using cellulose. First of all, it is a lot cheaper to do and also they can modify it to create some organism that makes ferment sugar into alcohol which gives you fuel.
5) We must figure out a way to store the biofuels safely without harming any of the things around it such as the surrounding areas. Also, if we can innovate the new processes that will produce biofuels at a cheaper rate, it would really help the distribution of them. Also, better transportation and pipelines moving them would help as well.

Tyler said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
WarEagle! said...

Biofuels are made from corn, sugar cane, switchgrass, and other crops.

Biofuels are not ideal for a long term solution because we can only produce so many crops. Biofuels are devastating to the land and the agriculture. Biofuels also are less effective than gasoline because it takes four gallons of ethanlol to equal one gallon of gasoline. Two advantages are that it takes away from our oil consumption which is bad for the environment because the burning of these fossil fuels makes for bad air pollution. Using ethanol from corn doesnt provide as much pollution as does using oil.

By burning wood you can use the heat coming from the fire on the wood to use to warm things which is how the extract energy from earth's biomass.

We are using more machinery in agriculture to make for more efficient methods and have a higher output in ethanol when we make.

We need to direct more of our money and time and manpower from industrial society to an agricultural one so we can have more ethanol output and higher efficiency in making it.

Colin K. said...

This is my redo on questions 4 and 5
4)Scientist are using genetic engineering and directed evolution to improve the process and make it economically viable by changing cellulase producing organism to make it ferment sugar. This would help make more people adapt to this way because it is cheaper.
5)We need to make changes such as better storage places. Also if we could find a way to grow the plants without effecting the environment in a negative way, for ex. runoff or fertilizer.

Brittany said...

Biodiesel is the most common biofuel, made from oils and fats using transesterification and mixed with mineral diesel. Biofuel can also be made from vegetable oil for older diesel engines in warm climates by combining the vegetable oil with conventional diesel fuel. Butanol is claimed to be a direct replacement for gasoline and is formed by ABE fermentation.

Biofuels provide benefits such as reduction of green house gas emissions such as carbon dioxide and less reliance on fossil fuel use. However, they could be more expensive than normal gasoline or cause inflation. Also, more agricultural land is needed to produce these fuels which decreases biodiversity and provides less land for crops and food sources

Energy is extracted using cellulose in plant cells. The cellulose is added to enzymes that break down the cell walls and convert it into sugar. The sugar is then fermented into alcohol which is easily distilled into the fuel used to make the energy.

Genetic engineering through the use of bacterial plasmids is being developed to produce more cellulose to convert to fermented sugar, quickening the process and making it more cost efficient. Directed evolution is done by only cultivating the plants that produce the desired trait for efficient production of biofuel.

One major problem with biofuels is their difficulty of transport and storage. We would need to make changes in our storing and transporting of the fuels before they are considered safe and affordable.

leigha said...

1.Briefly discuss 3 sources for biofuels.
Some examples of biofuels are ethanol, biodiesel, and biogas. Ethanol is drinking alcohol and it is flammable, colorless, and a slightly toxic chemical compound. Biodiesel is a diesel-equivalent processed fuel consisting of short chain alkyl made by vegetable oils or animal fats which can be used in unmodified diesel-engine vehicles. Biogas is a gas produced by the anaerobic digestion or fermentation of manure, sewage, solid waste or other waste. It is made up or methane and carbon dioxide.

2. Describe 2 advantages and 2 disadvantages of using biofuels.
One advantage to using biofuels is that they provide an alternative to petroleum fuels and have a better environmental performance. They reduce greenhouse gas emissions which also helps the environment by lowering the GHG. The disadvantage is that there is a low availability of resources and funding for the technologies related with biofuels. The cost of producing biofuel is higher than the price or fossil fuels. Also there is low support from public authorities.

3. Describe the process of extracting energy from the Earth's biomass.
To extract energy from the Earth’s biomass, we can take energy from the sun. The plants use make chloroplast from the solar energy. That energy is passed on to animals that eat those plants, which pass it to other animals that eat them. The energy is passed through the food chain. To extract biomass energy we can use solid fuel combustion, gasification, digestion and fermentation. Gasification converts carbon materials into carbon monoxide and hydrogen.

4. Discuss how they are using genetic engineering and directed evolution to improve the process and make it economically viable.
Genetic engineering is being used to make the process much quicker and more efficient. Though using bacterial plasmids, they are using this engineering to ferment sugar which makes the process much cheaper. Directed evolution is a method that harnesses the power of Darwinian selection to change proteins with different properties. This is being used by cultivating plants that end up with a better characteristic for biofuel production.

5. What changes would we need to make to our agricultural and industrial infrastructures in order to deploy biofuels?
We need to make the infrastructures more cost and time efficient. Transporting the biofuels is very difficult and storing it also is hard, so that makes the biofuels very expensive. If we made a way to make to easier to deliver and store, then it would be cheaper for the people.

Eric said...

Three different sources of biofuels are biodiesel, biogas, and bioalcohols. Biodiesel the most common biofuel and is made from oils and fats through transesterification and then mixed with mineral diesel. Biogas is made through the process of anaerobic digestion of organic materials through anaerobes. Bioalcohols are biologically produced alcohols, such as ethanol, produced by microorganisms and enzymes through fermentation.

Biofuels provide benefits since they reduce green house gas emissions and reduce the reliance on fossil fuel use. The problem is that more agricultural land is needed to produce these fuels which increases deforestation and provides less land for crops and food sources. Another problem is that they could be more expensive than normal gasoline or cause inflation.

In order to extract enough energy from the earth’s biomass we need organic molecule that is abundant, and the most abundant organic molecule on earth is cellulose. So to extract a useable fuel from cellulose you extract the cellulose from a plant then add some enzymes and convert the cellulose molecules into sugars. After that you ferment the sugar into alcohol, and then distill the alcohol into fuel.

In order to improve the biofuels, scientists are using genetic engineering and directed evolution to make the process cheaper and the biofuels more refined. This is done by changing the organism that produces cellulose to ferment the sugar.

One major problem with biofuels is that they are difficulty to transport and store. If we could change the way we store and transport the fuels, then they would be safer, cleaner, and more affordable than the conventional fossil fuels.

Anonymous said...

2.) An advantage of biofuels is that it's environmental friendly because it doesn't cause as much green house gas emissions as normal fossil fuels use. Another advantage is that it reduces our dependence on energy sources from other countries. A disadvantage is that if we use too much of a plants, it can cause deforestation and depletion. It also doesn't produce as much engy as fossil fuels do, even though it's safer.

Anonymous said...

1. Algae: comes from stagnant ponds in the natural world. It is experimented with green jet fuel in commercial travel.
Ethanol: comes from crops. Fermentation of starches comes from products like corn and sugar.
Biogas: breakdown of organic material in anaerobic site.

2. Advantages: decreased denied sent of foreign oil because we can produce our own products.

Anonymous said...

1. Ethenol: Enthenol comes from starches. It is made from already existing crops and/or in edible cellulose.

Blended Biodiesol: Comes from fats from grains and animals and are chemically reacted with alcohol.

Landfill gas: It is gas taken from landfills that are already digested.