Archive for Biofuels

Hooray for Hemp?

 legal-hempBiofuels have been proven to be cost effective and efficient since 1973. It is estimated that biomass produces 146 billion metric tons a year. Many new alternatives are emerging across the country and hemp is a potential. Hemp has the potential to be the number one biomass producer on Earth. 77% of the plant contains cellulose and cellulosic ethanol is the term referring to types of energy that we are familiar with. Cubing the plant can condense the bulk which reduces the cost and the amount of land used in the pyrolosis reactor which makes the fuel.

Hemp has promising potential because it is drought resistant making it easier to grow in dry regions across the country and is the only resource capable of functioning as an independent energy source. Although this seems like a great idea, there’s an underlying problem, it was outlawed in the United States in 1938. It is said that marijuana and hemp are of the same category, so the government made them illegal, but scientifically speaking you would need to smoke a 60ft pole of hemp just to get high. American farmers are now encouraged to apply for a license to cultivate hemp, but the Department of Agriculture rarely gives them out discouraging farmers.

The United States spends so much money on petroleum and coal exports that we are now feeling the effects of it in our economy. If the government were to legalize hemp, then the crop would provide us with a clean energy source, easier ways of producing cotton, a reduction on oil, and a better outlook on our future. To outlaw something with such great potential is completely absurd and its many uses can change the face of the green America.

-Nicholas Chan

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Algae Awareness

Algae is looking more and more like a potential biofuel that could be used. Using algae is a biofuel could drastically help our environment as well as our economy. Being eco-friendly, “the production of algae utilizes carbon dioxide, thus providing greenhouse gas alleviation.” This positive benefit would drastically improve our ecosytem by reducing the amount of greenhouse gases emitted and would eventually tradeoff with fossil fuels such as oil. Also, it could drastically improve our economy. Enforcing algae biofuels would create a new green workforce that would alleive the unemployment rate. Moreover, it will tradeoff with oil dependence which is a billion dollar expenditure in the United States and by slowing waning off our dependence, we’re able to save money in the long run. However, the biggest barrier preventing algae research and development is a lack of awareness and a fear of spending more in our already teetering economy. However, what Americans must understand is that bit a bit now, could potentially save us billions in the future. Another positive benefit of algae is it’s easiness to produce. Algae can be produced in large bodies of water and the amount of arable land needed is slim to none unlike other biofuels such as corn. With over 70% of the world covered in water, this renewablwe resource can easily be produced and used on a large scale. To ensure a greener future, simply spending a bit now could pose long-term benefits in the future.

-Nicholas Chan

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Biofuels in Plane Sight

In an effort to reduce their carbon footprint, the International Air Transport Association announced their quest to find a biofuel by 2010 to fuel their commercial flights.  IATA chief executive Giovanni Bisignani states, “For the first time, air transport has the possibility of an alternative to traditional jet fuel.”

If the aviation industry can reduce its dependency on fossil fuel then it will be considered a major landmark achievement for the advocates of clean and green energy. According to IATA estimates, aviation biofuel could reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 80% “on a full carbon life-cycle basis.” The same step will reduce 176 pounds of emissions per flight on a Boeing 747 plane.

The basic purpose of making aircrafts biofuel dependent is to make nations aware of the fact that’s the aviation industry must be treated as a separate entity for developing and implemting cleaner fuel technologies before the upcoming international climate change talks on Copenhagen.

~Christine Umeh

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Now, Switch!

grasssssFrom fossil fuels to corn ethanol, Americans need to switch over to brighter and greener forms of energy. Switchgrass, a fast growing plant is looking quite promising, but is overlooked among citizens. The Department of Energy truly believes that biofuels are the keystone transition from dependence to independence. The native crop can easily reduce reliance on foreign oil, curb greenhouse gas emissions, and strengthen the agricultural sector. The major problem with corn ethanol is the price fluctuation and the fast paced transition instead of a gradual switch over.  Switchgrass, however provides many benefits such as the cost competitiveness, the push in biodiversity, and the lack of a need for pesticides. It is one of the fastest growing crops that can be processed into a biofuel, but with corn ethanol and oil overshadowing the true potential of the grass, switchgrass is still stuck in the research and development phase. It is also empirically proven that switchgrass actuall adds organic nutrients to the soil ensuring a long lasting harvest. With its strong roots, the cash crop can last through the winter and prevent soil erosion. The air produced from the plant reduces carbon dioxide and it slows the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Naturally, since we don’t eat grass, price spikes won’t occur as with corn ethanol. Only with determination and public knowledge can society bring this promising grass to the forefront, so American, now, switch!

-Nicholas Chan

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Priceless Dirt

“Bacteria are one of the most abundant organisms on the planet and also one of the most studied. Today, scientists use bacteria for genetics research, antibiotics, and yes! Even biofuels. Recent technological advances have made a battery running on bacteria a reality. Known as microbial fuels cells or MFCs, batteries running on bacteria and other microbes have been keenly researched by scientist for decades.”

I saw this article on alternativeenergynews.com and wanted to share. Appearantly, scientists are using bacteria found in dirt to make biofuels. There is an actual running battery that is dependent on the seemingly worthless organisms. The cells are called “microbial fuel cell” (aka MFC’s) and they’ve been researched for a very long time in order to make this project available. The implications of this technology are very important. Humans now have the technology to extract energy from anything, without draining other organisms of their resources. People are no longer needing to use these resources that are irreplaceable since we have a myriad of alternative options. This great new discovery is definitely very valuable–as valuable as dirt.

– Silvia Chicas

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A Biofuel That Could Grow On You

algeaA recent ScienceDaily.com article, entitled BIOFUEL OF THE FUTURE?,  surprised me the idea of a great new biofuel. We all know that plants use photosynthesis to convert carbon dioxide and sunlight, but do we realize that this can be translated into usable energy? Plants do this so efficiently that they can double their weight in one day, which means that they could become a source of ever expanding energy. Algae could be the jumpstart to truly efficient energy usage in the future. Research shows that algae produced 15 times s many oil as other plants used for biofuel plants such as corn. Algae can grow in almost any type of water, salt water, fresh water, contaminated water and even land that’s not fertile for food production. Algae are theorized to grow faster when fed carbon dioxide (the common greenhouse gas) this means that, algae is not only an efficient energy producer, but it can also clean up our environment. Scientist have been interested in using algae as biofuel ever since the 1950’s. There was a experiment conducted to see if algae was able to produced enough oil to be used as fuel, but the study shows that it only produced around 1% of it’s weight. Recently a team of U.Va scientist study has showed that by feeding the algae more carbon dioxide, it can up produced oil up to 40% of its’ weight,. This shows that algae can strive off of carbon dioxide, and  untreated sewer waste, this can be a huge benefit to industries. There are still research going on about algae, to see if it can be our future source of biofuel. To me personally I think using algae as biofuel is an excellent idea, I hope that we can find other source of ener gy instead of resulting to burning fossil fuel.
Reference to
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/08/080818184434.htm

Phil Pham

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Thanks to all

Thanks to all the people who contributed to the blog in order to make it a success. All these posts help keep us high up inside of the competition this was made for, and so now we have made it to the top 10 because of it. The team is now able to send some students to New York to the United Nations Headquarters in order to learn more about helping out the environment.

As such, this is most likely the last update until late into the next school year, when we continue to all work together on these green activities. Until then, thanks once more to all the people that have contributed. We wouldn’t have been able to do it without you guys.

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