Mike Goosey: Biofuels are derived from biomass, an organic raw material of living organisms and also their byproducts as well.
Mike Goosey is a biochemist with Shell, speaking to EarthSky from the Thornton Research and Technology Center near Cheshire in the UK. One of the major biofuels today is bioethanol.
Mike Goosey: It is made through a traditional fermentation process. So very similar to the brewing or winery industry, it uses the sucrose from sugarcane. It can take starch from corn or wheat.
The other major biofuel is biodiesel.
Mike Goosey: And again the source, the biomass for that biofuel is commonly rapeseed, palm oil, soya bean as well in the States.
Many have questioned the use of food crops for fuel. But, in a world whose climate is changing, biofuels are seen by many experts and consumers as a necessary next step.
Mike Goosey: It’s not a silver bullet. And there will be other technologies that will contribute to this. But we do see biofuels as a significant contributor to reducing the CO2, and ultimately climate change that is facing us in the next 30, 40, 50 years.
There’s an additional challenge with biofuels. That is, fuel is needed to grow the crops used to make biofuels. In principle, biofuels are carbon neutral, but in practice farming the plants remains carbon intensive.
Mike Goosey: One of the challenges that the we do face as an industry is looking at is how to improve the yield of the biomass and also reduce the amount of energy that is put into growing that biomass. Something that industry and others are working on is how we can reduce the amount of fertilizer, how we can reduce the amount of water that’s required to generate the amount of biomass.
This podcast was made possible in part by Shell – encouraging dialog on the energy challenge.
Our thanks to:
Shell Global Solutions
Thornton Research and Technology Center
near Cheshire, UK
Jorge Salazar has conducted thousands of in-depth interviews with scientists in the process of creating science content for EarthSky. He also helps host the 90-second EarthSky podcasts. Jorge has a bachelor's degree in physics from the University of Texas at Austin. He knows a lot about a lot of different things. For EarthSky, he has explored subjects as diverse as nanotechnology, ecosystem-based management, climate change, global health, international environmental treaties, astrophysics and cosmology, and environmental security. His penetrating research style, poetic writing, and ability to track down and speak with Nobel prize-winning laureates, all make him a huge asset to EarthSky.