What is liquid fuel and why is it an issue?
Liquid fuels are combustable, energy-rich molecules that are in liquid form such as gasoline, diesel, and kerosine This form of fuel is widely used in the transportation sector because it can be easily converted into kinetic energy. Our dependency on this scarce resource has been a problem and it will only intensify. According to International Energy Outlook in 2004, the world’s liquid fuel consumption is expected to rise 38% by 2040. This worrisome increase can be explained by the emerging economies of China, India and the Middle East demanding more liquid fuel. With the majority of liquid fuel coming from fossil fuel and fossil fuel expecting depletion by the end of this century, the issue of finding a new source of liquid fuel is critical than ever.
this graph shows the increase in world liquid fuels consumption
From Fossil Fuel to Liquid Fuel
Liquid fuel is made through the processes distilling, cracking, reforming, treating, blending.
How oil is refined:
Can Biofuel be the solution?
Biofuel is able to provide energy rich molecules with plants that turn CO2 into hydrocarbon chains through a cycle called the Calvin Cycle. Biofuel is made from living organisms and therefore are renewable unlike fossil fuel. Furthermore, as biofuel is made from carbon already in the system, the additional carbon emission barely exists.
Limitations of biofuel
Biofuels may seem like the solution but they require massive fertile lands and nutrients to grow. To match the amount of liquid fuel the refineries in Hawaii are producing, entire Hawaiian islands have to be planted with crops for biofuel. Not to mention that the biofuel production will offset the production of food. It is estimated that if biofuel production doubles from its 2006 production, then by 2020 there will be 90 million more people suffering from hunger. On top of that, fossil fuel products are much more dense in energy and have other benefits too as highlighted in the following chart.
Biofuel Products vs Fossil Fuel Products
This chart compares the biofuel products with its fossil fuel counterpart
|Biofuel Products||Advantages||Fossil Fuel Products||Advantages|
|Ethanol||burns cleaner and produces less carbon monoxide||Gasoline/Ethane||double the energy density|
|Biodiesel||releases less particulates and sulfur compounds||Diesel||more dense and less corrosive|
|Methanol||easier to transport as it is liquid||Methane||triple to double the energy density|
|Biobutanol||no engine modification required||Gasoline/Butane||slightly more dense in energy|
What about our behaviour?
With the lack of a perfect solution to our liquid fuel crisis, maybe we have to search into ourselves for the solution rather than outside. Perhaps, it is our behaviours that have caused the problem and changing ourselves will be the solution. Besides from debating whether biofuel or fossil fuel is more environmentally friendly, another solution could be to carpool or use public transportation more often.
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