As discussed in the Biology and Society section, burning biomass to produce electricity avoids many of the problems associated with gathering, refining, transporting, and burning fossil fuels. Yet the use of biomass as fuel is not without its own set of problems. What challenges might arise from a large-scale conversion to biomass energy? How do these challenges compare with those encountered with fossil fuels? Which set of challenges do you think is more likely to be overcome? Does one energy source have more benefits and fewer costs than the others? Explain.
Biomass is fuel that is developed from organic materials, a renewable and sustainable source of energy used to produce electricity or other forms of power. Most of the biomass we utilize commercially in present comes from resources that are not sustainable (Rajagopal et al., 2007).
Biofuels have become a leading substitute to fossil fuel because they may be produced domestically by many countries, need only minimum changes to retail distribution and end-use technologies, are a partial response to global climate change, and because they have the prospective to spur rural growth.
Biomass fuels are a subject of burning debate in industrial and scientific communities. General problems of biomass-produced-energy are cost, transportation, seasonal limitations and the efficiency (or lack of efficiency) of the fuels generated. Our challenge is to ensure that biomass energy is produced in ways that not only decrease global warming pollution, but also care for the environment and do not raise the price of food. In other words, biomass energy should do the work better than the fossil fuels it replaces. Therefore, reduction of environmental pollution is a big challenge and it should be overcome.
There are many benefits as well as drawbacks of biomass fuels. Biomass fuels are less inexpensive than fossil fuels. Biofuels do not generate the same quantity of energy and do not burn as efficient as fossil fuels. On the other hand, biomass fuels are renewable and fossil fuels will ultimately be depleted.
Rajagopal, D., Sexton, S.E., Roland-Holst, D and Zilber, D. (2007) Challenge of biofuel: ﬁlling the tank without emptying the stomach? Environ. Res. Lett. 2: 044004.