Energyis the power derived from the utilisation of physical or chemical resources, toprovide light, heat and power 1. Energy is required for most parts ofeveryday life which means it is important, yet our main sources of energy arerunning out and we haven’t yet found a solution to replace them. Natural gas, crude oil and coal are 3 types offossil fuels which cause damage to the earths atmosphere every time they areburnt, as they enter the O-zone and are unable to enter space causing them toheat up the O-zone, which then heats up our planet and subsequently damages theenvironment. Yet they are still our main sources of energy production. It hasbeen known for many years that oil and gas are due to run out within the next70 years but we still haven’t made the required effort to reduce our use ofthem, which means this issue will be passed on to the next generation- us. Renewable energy (a replacement for fossilfuels) such as solar power and wind power are readily available around theworld but they only provide for 14% of our worldwide energy usage. These sources of renewable energy would beeffective for Britain as we have the weather conditions to power these devices.
The current issue is that some people believe that renewable energy isn’t costeffective, that it isn’t used widely and furthermore, that it uses up land thatcould be used for food production. This is why biofuels were designed; they areoften created by products which involve carbon fixation which comes from plantsthat photosynthesise. Biofuels create power from hundreds of resources such ascorn and sugarcane that don’t have many other uses, they can be used as fuelfor commercial or household vehicles. Yet many of the resources for biofuelneed land to be grown which causes the ‘Food Vs Fuel Debate’.
The main source of renewable energy comes fromfirst generation feed stocks; these are natural sources of energy which can betransformed into small amounts of biofuel using basic production methods.Examples of these sources are sugarcane and wheat; plants often used for food.This is ideal because it means they will be readily available and they are easyto grow, however, is also a problem because it creates the fuel vs food debate.A debate which questions whether the land used to grow these crops should bededicated to providing food or fuel, this is why 2nd generation feedstocks were discovered. 2nd generation feed stocks are amore reliable source of renewable energy because the sources of this energysuch as wood crops and residential waste have a higher calorific value, thismeans that there is more energy within these sources. The 2ndgeneration feed stocks require more advanced production methods but they attributeless issues in comparison to 1st generation feed stocks. For example,these sources are not used for food, which means the food vs fuel debate hasbeen removed. These sources of energy don’t have many other uses which makesthem more useful for energy production.
In addition, some of the energy sourcesdon’t need to grow at all, ensuring that space is not taken by these products. 3rd generation feedstocks is thepower derived from algea, this is fairly new to mainstream power production.Algea has a higher calorific value than any other resource that is used forpower production, however it requires larger and more complex methods ofproduction than any other resource. Algea grows in damp and hot conditions,meaning that it is not suitable for all countries.
Although algea is oftengrown in labs, it can also grow in the specific conditions, however, this coulduse land space and could damage land which could destroy other crops. Feedstocks create bioenergy which is oftenoverlooked when finding solutions for powering businesses, this is whybusinesses now have to create LCA’S (Life Cycle Analysis’s) to decide if thesebioenergy sources are viable for their companies. Bioenergy (as shown by the LCA above) iscreated and implemented with only a few steps, ensuring that clean renewablepower can be produced easily with the right equipment. Some people believe thatbioenergy is useless because it uses non-renewable energy to create it, whichcould be deemed as true but once bioenergy is widely produced it will be possibleto create it using renewable energy sources. LCA’s are used as decision supporting tools forcompanies who are invested in the environment and its products. The idea of anLCA is to come up with decisions quickly and effectively. Although LCA’s manageto do their job they are unreliable and often forget about the location andstage of these ecological processes.
This means that the people receiving theinformation from the LCA will only have the basic information, not coveringissues like the weather conditions or the current state of the economy creatingthese biofuels. This has potential to create further issues for the companiesthat have invested into biofuels. Countries like the UK create small amount ofbioenergy that is used for low scale needs, this is useless especially for theUK this is because they have the land and the resources needed to create alarge scale bioenergy scheme. This would create jobs, energy and decrease taxesfor the citizens of the uk.
The UK could use an LCA to decide whether bioenergyproduction is deemed useful for the country, although as this only gives basicinformation, it would allow for the government to decide whether or not it isworth the underlying costs. The UK couldlook at how Brazil used an LCA to help them decide if producing energy wasright for them. Bioethanol and biodiesel (2 examples ofbiofuel) have very similar properties because they are both used in vehicles ofa similar calibre. For example, bioethanol is a high performance fuel used inhigh-powered engines. Due to this, bioethanol will have a high pour point toensure its state is liquid when entering the vehicle. It will also have a lowflash point so that the engine can produce vapour to reduce power usage, and itwill have a high calorific value to ensure it has the energy capacity to startthe car. This is similar to biodiesel which is used in diesel cars. Biodieselwill have a higher calorific value than bioethanol, this is because diesel carsrequire more power for the engine to heat up and produce vapour and this oftenmeans that the price is higher.
But this hasn’t stopped other countries such asBrazil from using these renewable fuel replacements. Brazil is the only economically developedcountry in the world that uses renewable energy as a major source of power 2,and has used these sources of renewable power since 2002, when the presidentintroduced new policies to decrease the amount of fossil fuels used by thecountry. Within the last 15 years, Brazil has managed to have 45% of it’s 180million people use renewable energy 3. The main way this has been achieved isby the country’s 400 sugarcane mills 4 and its 33,000 petrol stations (out of36,000 in the country) which provide petrol and diesel that uses 25% ethanol5. Clearly Brazil’s policies to increase renewableenergy have been successful because they have managed to decrease fossil fueluse to 55% of all energy produced 6, this is key to the success of thesepolicies. Brazil has not tried to remove fossil fuels completely, which easesthe pressure on people because they understand that they only have to change afew small elements of their life. This has made the public in Brazil moreenthusiastic about using renewable energy.
The key element of Brazil’s success is theiruse of ethanol in petrol. This is a very simple idea that could easily beimplemented into other countries, this is because since 2007 more than 50% ofcars are Flex fuel 7, this means that the car can run on fuels that have beenmodified to make them cheaper or more economically friendly, encouraging Brazilto change the fuel which has decreased fossil fuel usage. This has helped the peoplein Brazil as the ethanol produced for fuel is the cheapest biofuel in theworld, which means the public of Brazil pay less for their fuel 8.
The other key part of Brazil’s success inincreasing renewable energy usage is their use of sugarcane. Sugarcane is aplant that grows efficiently in the climate of Brazil. Once it was discoveredthat sugarcane has energy properties, Brazil began to increase their farmsuntil they had over 200, which produced enough sugarcane to create ethanol for almost15% of the country’s energy needs 9. People ask “if Brazil has managed to increaserenewable energy usage why can’t everyone else?”. The real reason the rest ofthe world is struggling to keep up with Brazil is because they are beingunrealistic about how little fossil fuels they can use.
After seeing Brazil’ssuccess, other countries are trying to use only renewable energy which isn’tworking, when they should actually be modelling their plan on the basis ofBrazil’s success. The final goal is to completely remove the useof fossil fuels and Brazil are well on their way to completing that, butunfortunately the rest of the world are not as successful with renewable energyas Brazil is. This is because other countries are trying to completely removefossil fuels within a short amount of time, which will be unsuccessful. This isa result of the population in these countries and the lack of people willing tospend their money and time on changing the (currently) reliable energy that isavailable to them. Although everyone makes an effort to recycleand use less hot water, we are still unable to produce enough bioenergy, withthe resources we have, to provide for these households. The best solution to startto reduce fossil fuel usage for countries such as the UK or the US is to makechanges that most people won’t notice, for example using ethanol in fuel orturning street lights off between 1am and 4am. This will reduce the burning offossil fuels without causing turmoil within these countries. Another solution is to set each household abudget of non-renewable energy they can use in a month; this is morerestrictive than implementing ethanol into fuels but it will be more effective.
Each household can be given a fine for exceeding their monthly budget and ifthey need more energy they can implement bioenergy solutions into their house.This could increase bioenergy but it may also cause debates between thegovernment and the general public. Bioenergy is likely to become the majoritysource of power for the world within the next 100 years, mainly because fossilfuels will have nearly become deplete, however, each country is going to haveto take a stand and start producing large amounts of bioenergy to ensure theyhave the energy necessary to power their country in the future. Renewable energy will not completely be usedthroughout the world, because of the price of implementing bioenergyproduction, but the amount of renewable energy used will ideally be increased.
If this doesn’t happen our atmosphere could become too unstable for us tosurvive, which could cause mass death. This is why we need to change our energyusage and we need to think about where our energy has come from.