Biofuels are here to stay, whether we like it or not

By Raj Shah, David Forester, Philip Iaccarino and Kareem Mehdi

Bioenergy and biofuels are of increasing public and private interest as the world stands at a crossroads of rising energy demand and concerns over climate change. Biofuels are under an ever-brightening spotlight and touted as an ostensibly “cleaner” alternative to fossil fuels. However, in order to glean more than a simple understanding of biofuels, one must thoroughly investigate all facets of this complex issue. The salient questions being: are biofuels for transport a viable alternative to power our cars, trucks, buses and other locomotives? Furthermore, do they deliver the anticipated environmental boons? And, finally, what part should public policy play in their ascendancy?

There are three categories into which biofuels are stratified (first generation, second generation and third generation) based on the type of input material, or feedstock, used to produce them. First generation biofuels are produced from food crops. Ethanol feedstocks include crops such as sugar cane and corn, while biodiesel feedstocks consist of naturally occurring vegetable oils, including soybean,...

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