Thursday, October 16, 2008

What are the biofuel challenges?

Earth & Sky Radio Serieswith hosts
Deborah Byrd, Joel Block,Lindsay Patterson and Jorge Salazar
Mike Goosey: Biofuels are derived from biomass, an organic raw material of living organisms and also their byproducts as well.
That’s biochemist Mike Goosey with Shell, speaking to us from the Thornton Research and Technology Center near Cheshire in the UK. One of the major biofuels today is bioethanol.
Mike Goosey: It is made through a traditional fermentation process. So very similar to the brewing or winery industry, it uses the sucrose from sugarcane. It can take starch from corn or wheat.
The other major biofuel is biodiesel.
Mike Goosey: And again the source, the biomass for that biofuel is commonly rapeseed, palm oil, soya bean as well in the States.
Many have questioned the use of food crops for fuel. But, in a world whose climate is changing, biofuels are seen by many experts and consumers as a necessary next step.
Mike Goosey: It’s not a silver bullet. And there will be other technologies that will contribute to this. But we do see biofuels as a significant contributor to reducing the CO2, and ultimately climate change that is facing us in the next 30, 40, 50 years.
There’s an additional challenge with biofuels. That is, fuel is needed to grow the crops used to make biofuels. In principle, biofuels are carbon neutral, but in practice farming the plants remains carbon intensive.
Mike Goosey: One of the challenges that the we do face as an industry is looking at is how to improve the yield of the biomass and also reduce the amount of energy that is put into growing that biomass. Something that industry and others are working on is how we can reduce the amount of fertilizer, how we can reduce the amount of water that’s required to generate the amount of biomass.

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