Advantages of Cellulosic Ethanol


Advantage of biofuels over fossil fuels: Biofuels are renewable.

Coal, oil, and natural gas are fossil fuels. They were formed hundreds of millions of years ago through the decay of plants and animals, combined with other natural processes. Once fossil fuels are depleted, they cannot be replaced. Biomass, on the other hand, is easily regrown.

Advantage of biofuels over fossil fuels: Biofuels are carbon neutral.

When fuel is burned (which occurs anytime someone drives a vehicle), carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas) is released into the atmosphere. Carbon released into the atmosphere can be taken back in again by plants during photosynthesis. Carbon taken in, or sequestered, by plants can no longer participate in the atmosphere as a greenhouse gas. The release and sequestering of carbon is called the carbon cycle. It occurs on a global scale.

Carbon that is released from the consumption of biomass can be reabsorbed in equal measures by new biomass growth. This means that biofuels are considered to be carbon neutral. Such a balanced cycle is not the case for fossil fuels. Since it takes millions of years to create fossil fuels, the burning of a fossil fuel simply releases uncompensated carbon into the atmosphere. Additional plant growth is needed to take in fossil fuel carbon.

Carbon Cycle

(Illustration source: Sue Hill, Michigan Technological University.)

Advantage of lignocellulosic biomass fuels over corn biofuels: Cellulosic ethanol does not require cropland.

One advantage of using lignocellulosic biomass instead of corn for biofuels production is that lignocellulosic biomass does not compete with the food supply as corn does. (If you are using the corn to make ethanol, that same corn cannot be used for food. More corn for biofuel = less corn for food.)