Most cars and trucks on the road today are fueled by gasoline and diesel fuels. These fuels are produced from oil, which is a non-renewable fossil fuel. Non-renewable fuels depend on resources that will eventually run out. Renewable biofuels, in contrast, can be constantly replenished. Biofuel currently come in two forms:
Ethanol: Ethanol is made using plant feedstocks such as corn, sugar beet, sweet sorghum, or sugar cane and fermenting it. Efforts are also underway to economically produce ethanol from crop residue, tree waste, or biomass crops. It can be used directly in pure ethanol-fired cars or blended with gasoline to make "gasohol."
Biodiesel: Biodiesel is made by combining raw vegetable oil with methanol to make a vegetable oil methyl ester (VOME). This can be used directly as fuel or blended with petroleum diesel.
The development of the biofuel industry is likely to be rapid. There are three reasons behind this:
Biofuels have several environmental benefits. Using biofuels instead of fossil fuel reduces net emissions of carbon dioxide, which are associated with global climate change. Biofuels are produced from renewable plant resources that recycle carbon dioxide created when biofuels are consumed. Life cycle analyses show that using biofuels results in net reductions of carbon emissions compared to using petroleum equivalents. Therefore, biofuels help nations achieve their goals of reducing carbon emissions.
Biofuels help promote energy security. When produced from local and regional biomass sources, biofuels are relatively isolated from the uncertainties of international political disruptions. Domestically produced biofuels also enhance national security by reducing net imports of petroleum and international trade imbalances sometimes associated with oil imports. Biofuel crops in most countries can be grown and processed domestically, providing an almost zero risk source of supply.
Biofuels create local and regional economic development opportunities. Such developments frequently occur in rural areas where other options are very limited. The use of biofuels allows energy and agricultural policies to be coupled to provide benefits in both areas.