Low-Carbon Technologies: Energy Supply Biofuels

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Biofuel is an energy source provided by organic material, or biomass.  Biofuel typically takes the form of biodiesel (from animal byproduct) and bioethanol (from plant sugar or starch).  There are currently three generations of recognized biofuels.  First-generation biofuels provide energy from food-based crops, but this has placed a strain on world food markets and the affordability of agricultural crops.  Second-generation biofuels consist of forest and crop residues, urban waste and designated energy crops; however, the use of such biomass creates problems from competing land use.  Third-generation biofuels consist of photosynthetic microalgae with simple growing requirements, which have thus far revealed few detriments.  Each generation has beneficial aspects depending on the locale and the needs of the surrounding population.

Biofuels already supply energy for industry, power and transport.  Their use as a replacement for petroleum fuels has political and economic implications including the effects on land conservation and food security.  However, access to cheaper energy will benefit all global markets.  This is especially true in the developing world, where more accessible energy supplies will aid in developing rural areas and decreasing poverty.