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Sunday, December 4, 2011

gobar gas plant
What are biofuels? Biomass refers to matter such as dry leaves, farm products, animal waste and sometimes timber. Biomass can be used as a renewable source of energy - biofuels. Though biofuels are not as efficient as coal and petroleum, they are natural, less polluting and easy to find. For example, half a kilogram of dry leaves can produce as much energy as 300g of coal. Unlike coal, leaves grow and fall every year, so we are not likely to run out of them soon.

In Indian villages, almost one-third of all the energy used comes A fresh cow pie (dung)from biofuel. The single most important biofuel in rural India is gobar gas (gas from cow dung). Energy from this biofuel is used for cooking, power, and transport. Biomass is biodegradable, which means that if you leave it on the ground, it disintegrates by itself. Biofuels provide cheap fuel for the rural people of India, but unfortunately are not used much in the cities. If cities used biofuels, they might have had less pollution.

Click on this image to see how dung is used to generate fuel in an Indian village. Dung from livestock is put into a brick tank, and then it flows down to the main tank. Here it is all squished up and the gas (biofuel) accumulates at the top. This gas is now taken to the kitchen through a pipe. One single charge can produce enough gas for five days in the kitchen. The same technique can be applied in school, this time with 15-20 tanks. When enough gas accumulates at the top, it can be burned to generate electricity.

In the US, the most widely used biofuel is ethanol. S.E.E.K. encourages all Americans to use biodiesel made from ethanol. Ethanol is a transparent liquid extracted from corn and similar crops. Added to petroleum, ethanol decreases carbon emissions. E5 for example, is the name of a fuel that is 5% ethanol and 95% petroleum. Depending on the ethanol content, fuels can be E10, E20, E85 or even E100. Most cars will run on E5-E100 fuel without needing new or modified engines (really old cars might go boom!), but we recommend you consult a mechanic before filling your gas tank with ethanol.

One problem with ethanol is that corn for livestock and human food is diverted to energy production. To meet the total fuel needs of theCorn US, 55% of the total land area would have to be dedicated to corn for ethanol production. Innovations by scientists, by adding hydrogen to the ethanol production process, can help us produce twice as much ethanol from the same area of land. Animal fats can also be used alongside corn to produce biodiesel. Biodiesels can be mixed with petroleum to make B2, B5, B20 and B85 fuels. B5 is 5% biodiesels mixed with 95% petroleum. The emissions from cars running on biodiesel are cleaner than emissions from cars running on gasoline. Help the world. Use biodiesels and ethanol! 

There are quite a few different kinds of biofuels. It doesn’t matter which one you use, you will still help the environment!!!
To test your knowledge of the information found on this page, print out this Biofuels Crossword Puzzle.

Vocabulary: Here are the meanings of a few words.

Biomass - materials such as leaves, waste and timber
Biofuels - energy produced from biomass.
Biodegradable - materials that break down easily.
Renewable - can be used over and over again.

Here are a few interesting facts and statistics:

1. 90% of the rural households in India use biofuels.
2. 15% of the urban households in India use biofuels.
3. Biofuels produces less CO2 emissions than coal or petroleum.

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