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Biofuel can be broadly defined as solid, liquid, or gas fuel derived from recently dead biological material. This distinguishes it from fossil fuels, which are derived from long dead biological material. Biofuel can be theoretically produced from any (biological) carbon source, though the most common by far is photosynthetic plants. Various plants and plant-derived materials are used for biofuel manufacturing. Biofuels are used globally, most commonly to power vehicles and cooking stoves. Biofuel industries are expanding in Europe, Asia and the Americas.
Biofuels offer the possibility of producing energy without a net increase of carbon into the atmosphere, because the plants used in to produce the fuel have removed CO2 from the atmosphere, unlike fossil fuels which return carbon which was stored beneath the surface for millions of years into the air. Therefore, biofuel is in theory more nearly carbon neutral and less likely to increase atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases. (However, doubts have been raised as to whether this benefit can be achieved in practice, see below). The use of biofuels also reduces dependence on petroleum and enhances energy security.
There are two common strategies of producing biofuels. One is to grow crops high in sugar (sugar cane, sugar beet, and sweet sorghum) or starch (corn/maize), and then use yeast fermentation to produce ethyl alcohol (ethanol). The second is to grow plants that contain high amounts of vegetable oil, such as oil palm, soybean, algae, or jatropha. When these oils are heated, their viscosity is reduced, and they can be burned directly in a diesel engine, or they can be chemically processed to produce fuels such as biodiesel. Wood and its byproducts can also be converted into biofuels such as woodgas, methanol or ethanol fuel. It is also possible to make cellulosic ethanol from non-edible plant parts, but this can be difficult to accomplish economically.
Biofuels are discussed as having significant roles in a variety of international issues, including: mitigation of carbon emissions levels and oil prices, the "food vs fuel" debate, deforestation and soil erosion, impact on water resources, and energy balance and efficiency.
- See Wikipedia:Biofuel for full article
Extract of Wikipedia article to explain the term
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