Biofuels for Kids

Biodiesel sample in flask. Image by Shizhao.

Biodiesel sample in flask. Image by Shizhao. License: GNU FDL

Almost all of the automobiles we use run on gasoline or diesel, which are both made from oil. Oil is a fossil fuel and a nonrenewable resource so using so much of it is very bad for our environment. Every time we drive a car with regular gasoline or a truck with regular diesel, we are releasing dangerous chemicals, called greenhouse gases, into the environment. People in the world are not going to give up all of their vehicles because many of the things we depend on in life require us to have a car or other vehicle. Many people think that the answer to this problem is to start using biofuels to run our vehicles. Biofuels are made from different types of plants. There are two types of biofuels that have been developed as a substitute for fossil fuels. These two biofuels are ethanol and biodiesel.

How Do Biofuels Work?

Ethanol is an alcohol that is made from the sugar in some types of grains and other plants. It is usually made from corn, sorghum, and barley but can also be made from potato skins, rice, sugar cane, sugar beets, tree bark, switch grass, and green plant waste. Ethanol is usually mixed with gasoline or other fuels to help cut down on the amount of fossil fuels that are used by cars.

Biodiesel is made from vegetable oils, fats, and greases and can be used in any engine that uses regular diesel without making any special changes to the engine. Biodiesels can get rid of our need to use fossil fuels if we can figure out how to make it available to everybody. Sometimes biodiesel is used by itself and sometimes it is mixed with regular diesel.

Because ethanol and biodiesel are both flammable, which means they can burn, they can cause the little explosions that cause engines to run in vehicles. They can also be used in any other place where people normally use gasoline or diesel. Biofuels are made from renewable resources so some people think this is a good answer to our need to stop using fossil fuels.

Benefits of Biofuels

Since biofuels are made from renewable resources, we don’t have to worry about running out of them. Biofuels are also much safer for the environment because they won’t harm the earth if they get spilled accidentally. When biofuels are used in car engines, they don’t make as much pollution as regular fuels. This is another way that they are better for the environment than fossil fuels.

Ethanol plant in Turner County, SD, USA. Image by Jon Platek.

Ethanol plant in Turner County, SD, USA. Image by Jon Platek.

Carbon dioxide is one of the worst greenhouse gases. Using biofuels can release carbon dioxide into the air but many scientists say this is not bad for the earth because the plants that biofuels are made from take carbon dioxide out of the air while they are growing. Since growing the crops for biofuels takes as much carbon dioxide out of the air as burning biofuels puts into the air, they do not cause global warming.

Biofuels are also much cheaper than regular fuels. This is because they are made from plants and plants are much cheaper than the oil used to make regular fuel. Also, growing crops for these fuels helps provide jobs for many farmers and farm workers. As we keep running out of fossil fuels, the price of gasoline and diesel will keep getting higher and higher. When this happens, people everywhere are going to want the cheaper biofuels.

Drawbacks of Biofuels

Since biofuels are made from crops, farmland had to be used to grow these crops. A lot of people worry that growing biofuel crops will take the place of growing food and that this might cause a food shortage. If that happens, the prices of food will go up and it will be really hard for many people to afford food for their families. It will also cause many people in poor countries to starve. If we use many biofuels, we will have to be very careful not to stop growing enough food for the world’s people.

Other people are afraid that more land will have to be cleared off so we can grow more crops for fuel. This will destroy important ecosystems and will cause many plants and animals to lose their habitats. If that happens in a lot of places, it could be very bad for the balance of nature. People also worry that biofuel is not much better than regular fuel because they do release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. They do not cause as much pollution as regular fuels, but many people think that any new energy source should be free of pollution.

A last problem of biofuel is that right now there are not a lot of gas stations that have it available for people to use. There are very few places where people can get biofuel and it will not be a really good alternative energy until it is available for everybody to use.

It is important for us to find other types of fuels because we are running out of fossil fuels. It is also important to stop using fossil fuels because they cause a lot of pollution that is destroying our planet. Biofuels can cause pollution too but they aren’t as bad as fossil fuels because they plants used to make them help take pollution out of the air.

Like many other kinds of earth friendly energy sources, biofuel is not perfect. Scientists all over the world are working hard every day to solve the problems of biofuel and to make it a better choice for people. We will also have to do a lot of work to figure out how we can make it available to everybody. Finally, we have to figure out how to make enough biofuel for everybody without causing a food shortage on our planet. If we can solve these problems, biofuel may be the perfect answer to our problem of how to stop using fossil fuels.



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