Biofuels or Biopower?

Article: Biofuels vs. Biomass Electricity

Findings from a collaboration between researchers at Stanford University, the Carnegie Institute of Science, and the University of California, Merced, published on Science:

  • using biomass to produce electricity is 80 percent more efficient than transforming the biomass into biofuel
  • the electricity option would be twice as effective at reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. There’s also the potential, according to the study, of capturing and storing the carbon dioxide emissions from power plants that use switchgrass, wood chips, and other biomass materials as fuel–an option that doesn’t exist for burning ethanol

Based on under the Biofuel Analysis Meta-Model (EBAMM) created at the University of California, Berkeley. The analysis covered a range of harvested crops, including corn and switchgrass, and a number of different energy-conversion technologies. Data collected were applied to electric and combustion-engine versions of four vehicle types–small car, midsize car, small SUV, and large SUV–and their operating efficiencies during city and highway driving. The study also accounted for the energy required to convert the biomass into ethanol and electricity, as well as for the energy intensiveness of manufacturing and disposing of each vehicle type.

On the other hand, given that electricity is much cheaper than fuel, the idea of converting biomass into fuels may sound more appealing than electricity to investors who are interested in profit-maximization.

The comparison between biofuel and biopower is still contentious. Each side has its own merits that need to be examined carefully and comprehensively.

We would like to hear your take on this through the poll!


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