The oil economy cannot run on crude from underground reserves indefinitely. However, a majority of the transportation infrastructure is set up for the delivery of oil products and for the cars, trucks, boats, that run on refined oil (gasoline, diesel, kerosene).
According to MarketWatch, late last year the Department of Energy approved millions of dollars in grants for alternative fuels, including biofuels. The following video from MarketWatch covers many of the recent advancements made in the field.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, “To further encourage U.S. biofuel consumption, the Energy Policy Act of 2005 for the first time established a federal mandate — called the Renewable Fuel Standard—to require a certain amount of biofuel consumption. Under the Act, Congress mandated a 4-billion gallon total for national biofuel consumption in 2006, with an increase to 7.5 billion gallons by 2012.” Whether or not biofuels replace crude remains to be seen. But as mentioned in the video, so-called “drop-in” fuels, those that do not need to be refined and can flow directly into the current supply of oil or gasoline – using the current pipelines and infrastructure – may represent the future of biofuels.
The main concern with ethanol and many other earlier biofuels remains competition with food. If food prices are pushed higher, or arable land cultivated for fuel instead of food, biofuels will not represent a sustainable option. However, switchgrass, algae, and other photosynthetic organisms that do not directly compete for resources with the nation’s food supplies offer a possible way around the food vs. fuel debate.
- Eric Wilson
[image source: USDA]