Airlines love to tout their environmental-friendly initiatives and the new trend is biofuel. But is “biofuel” a subjective term like “all natural” or a clearly-defined, objective fuel type? Is it actually a good thing?
United released the following video on biofuel:
It does not a nice job of concisely explaining what biofuel is, but again…is that United’s definition or is there a regulated definition?
Wikipedia provides the following definition:
A biofuel is a fuel that is produced through contemporary biological processes, such as agriculture and anaerobic digestion, rather than a fuel produced by geological processes such as those involved in the formation of fossil fuels, such as coal and petroleum, from prehistoric biological matter.
Sounds good, but that’s a very wide definition. Are biofuels helpful for the environment? Yes and no.
Biofuels are different from fossil fuels in regard to greenhouse gases but are similar to fossil fuels in that biofuels contribute to air pollution. Burning produces airborne carbon particulates, carbon monoxide and nitrous oxides.
Critics of biofuel argue that 1.) biofuel requires additional land-use to produce the material required for fuel. This will eventually cancel out the carbon emissions saved over fossil fuels. 2.) Creating biofuels take away irrigable land that is better allocated addressing world hunger issues and 3.) Both crops and biofuel facilities require significant water.
I’m not a scientist and try not to be a cynic, but don’t blindly assume that “biofuels” are inherently better than fossil fuels. Like many things in life, there are tradeoffs. I think we can all agree that working toward a carbon-neutral fuel is a lofty goal, even if an unlikely one.