Biofuel VS Fossil Fuel
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Biofuels at a Glance Green Investing Biofuel vs. Fossil Fuel Good and Bad of Biodiesel

Biofuel Versus Fossil Fuel

The full scale implementation of biofuels is not without challenges such as the question of Net Energy Gains (NEG), the food
versus fuel controversy, soil erosion, and the impact of monoculture plantations. So can we find a biofuel crop that is actually

Energy in Energy Out

Net Energy Gain is the new metric buzzword in biofuels. It refers to the net difference between the amount of energy expended
to harvest an energy source versus the amount of energy gained from that harvest.

The key question is whether or not biofuels have a net gain or loss and if a net gain how does it stack up to oil. Can biofuel
be as efficient as oil?


In 1920, 50 barrels of crude oil were extracted for every barrel used to extract and refine. Today it has plummeted to 5 barrels
extracted for every one used giving it a present day NEG of 5. From this simple fact we can see that whether or not oil is
actually running out; the time is approaching when it will take more energy to extract the oil than the oil can provide.

According to prevailing theories oil is a non renewable energy source, meaning that once a
barrel of oil is extracted from the ground it is gone for good. Factor this in and the case could
be made that the energy balance is in fact negative. No amount of energy expended will create
new oil.

Another consideration is the many uses for oil aside from energy. The manufacture of materials
and chemicals: try to find an item in your home that (aside from wooden items) was not made
with oil. At what point does the use of oil in manufacturing become more profitable than the use
of oil for energy?

Enter Biofuel - Stage Left

Depending on the feedstock used for biofuel you can get varying net energy gains. Ethanol produced from corn in the United
States only shows a net energy gain of 1.34 versus oil's NEG of 5. On the other hand, sugar cane in South America enjoys
a NEG of nearly 8!

Rapeseed, popular for use in Europe as biofuel feedstock has a NEG of approximately 3.2 depending on the farming process.
No official numbers are in for Jatropha yet but based solely on the differences in the amount of oil harvested per hectare
(145 kg for corn and 1600 kg for jatropha) jatropha should come in with an NEG somewhere around 14.

So it appears that, if using the right feedstocks, biofuels can in fact compete on a purely net energy gain basis with petroleum
derived fuels.

Eat or Drive?

Recently we have seen a disturbing trend. From the price of sugar in South America to the price of corn and soy beans in the
United States and most recently the price of palm oil in Indonesia we see that using food crops as biofuel crops will in fact
have a definable impact on the price of those foods.

In many cases, especially in the developing world, the competition of fuel with food has driven the price of the food beyond the
reach of the people working the plantations. The food versus fuel debate can be solved by simply changing the source of
biodiesel feedstock to a plant not used as food.

Jatropha - The Magic Plant?

Enter Jatropha, a tree producing non edible nuts with extremely high oil content, requiring very little
maintenance or water. As an added benefit Jatropha also takes care of one other argument: soil
erosion. Due to how Jatropha roots grow they actually fight soil erosion! Jatropha, as it requires
planting in 7x7 plots, solves the monoculture dilemma by allowing for intercropping - the planting of
other, unrelated crops between the rows of trees.

Jatropha, having few natural pests, requires far less pesticides.Another nice side benefit is the fact that the waste product from
the oil extraction, called seedcakes, are a potent fertilizer 5 times stronger than industrial fertilizer.

When all the facts are in Jatropha, while not the only solution is certainly one of the best and most viable biofuel crops. With new,
large scale plantings occurring at an ever accelerating pace look for Jatropha biodiesel at a fuel station near you very soon.


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Newsletter Issue 1.1