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Modern society is dependent on oil. At present, the demand of oil is supplied by fossil fuels. Unfortunately, fossil fuels are non-renewable.

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Soon the supply will run out, as the demand for oil will surely exhaust all resources. In addition, the use of fossil fuels is accompanied by health and environmental risks. Therefore, there is a need for other fuel options, and this is where alternative fuels come in. This research paper aims to discuss biofuels, specifically biodiesel and E85, the pros and cons of using alternative fuels as well as the effects on the economy and the environment.

The need for alternative sources has become more urgent. It is from this need that the creation of alternative fuels has become necessary. One of the alternative fuels is biofuel. Before biofuel can be discussed, it is important to discuss what biomass is. Biomass consists of organic matter derived from plants or animals (“Biomass FAQs”). Biomass usually comes from remnants of agriculture and forestry, industrial and municipal wastes, as well as crops grown either on land or water that were planted to be utilized as a source of energy.

It is advantageous to use biomass, since it is renewable and its resources are uniformly appropriated throughout the surface of the Earth. In addition, biomass can be utilized using technologies that are not harmful to the environment (“Biomass FAQs”). Biofuels, in turn, are fuels that are extracted from biomass (“Biomass FAQs”). Some of the agricultural commodities that are planted to produce biofuels are soybeans and corn. At present, there have been efforts to use other crops, such as woody crops and switchgrass, in the creation of biofuels (“Biomass FAQs”).

One advantage of biofuels is that it does not contribute to increase the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere (“Biofuels”). This is because biofuels are created from plants which eliminate carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and when it is burnt, it only releases the same amount. That is why biofuels are thought to be “CO2 neutral” (“Biofuels”). The use of biofuels is relatively easy, as it adapts to existing mechanisms that use traditional fuel. This characteristic makes biofuel usage appealing for both individuals and businesses (West).

There is no need for special equipment, or another vehicle, or even a new heating device from home to use this fuel. One can simply fill the tanks with it (West). Biofuels can be used as sources of energy through the energy inherent in biomass, from which it was made. Biomass can be a source of energy through the process of converting feedstock material, like cellulose and starch, into a form that can be utilized (“Biomass FAQs”). Biofuels that are used to power transportation are created through processes that are either thermochemical, or biochemical.

The term “biofuel” is actually wide in scope. There are several kinds of biofuels, some of which are methane, biocrude, methanol, ethanol and biodiesel (“Biomass FAQs”). Among all the biofuels available, ethanol is the one which has widespread usage (“Biomass FAQs”). Ethanol can be called with two other names: ethyl alcohol and grain alcohol. Ethanol can be used as an alternative fuel. It can also be an add-on to traditional fuel. Generally, adding ethanol to gasoline has many benefits. First, it decreases the gasoline’s capacity for pollution, especially in the air.

Now, ethanol is replacing methyl t-butyl ether or MTBE, as an “oxygenate additive” (“Biomass FAQs”). This is because MTBE contributes to the poisoning of the soil and groundwater. Second, adding ethanol to gasoline increases the octane. Third, by blending ethanol with gasoline, the depletion of petroleum fuels is decreased (“Biomass FAQs”). Ethanol is a fuel produced from plant starch and sugar (“Biomass FAQs”). In the United States, it is created from plant starch of grains which include wheat, corn and grain sorghum.

All the starch will undergo fermentation and distillation process to turn starch into sugar, which will eventually be turned into alcohol. There are two methods employed for the production of ethanol from biomass. The first one is biochemical conversion. In this process, biomass is divided into cellulose and starch. When in water, these two is disintegrated into various sugars; in turn, these sugars will be fermented to create ethanol. As of now, corn is the primary material in the production of ethanol.

However, there are current efforts to widen the range of plant options that would create ethanol. These options include poplar, willow, switchgrass, grain straw and even municipal wastes (“Biomass FAQs”). There are several benefits in using ethanol. First, it is renewable (“Ethanol Benefits”). Second, it is domestic. In the United States, petroleum is imported from other countries. The nation’s dependency on foreign sources of oil makes it susceptible to problems in price, supply and trade. Ethanol, on the other hand, can be produced domestically, eliminating all those problems (“Ethanol Benefits”).