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What are the pros and cons of biofuels?

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Quick Answer

According to About.com, biofuels are usable in cars and trucks without altering the vehicles, which is a good thing, and they are cleaner than fossil fuels. Biofuels are renewable energy sources potentially capable of reducing the world's reliance on fossil fuels, but to support the industry, an unreasonable amount of the world's remaining arable land is required to produce sufficient crops.

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Full Answer

About.com cites an energy consultant who claims that replacing a mere five percent of the United States' diesel with biofuels requires using 60 percent of the soy crops grown for food. If this is accurate, producing crops to make enough biofuel to reduce fossil fuel use in a significant way is likely to stress the world's food supply.

Additionally, making biofuels from crops such as corn and soybeans is not energy efficient. A 2005 study that About.com references suggests that growing and converting the crops into biofuels uses more energy than what the biofuels are able to produce. An article on CNN.com claims that if the United States were to use all of its grasslands to produce crops for fuel, fossil fuel use is reduced by only 10 percent.

Clearly the major problem with biofuels as of 2014 is that they are inefficient and are likely to stress the world's arable land. Advances in technology may change this. There is a form of biofuel called cellulosic ethanol that does not rely on food crops. It is made using grass, wood chips and farm waste. Additionally, algae-based biofuels produce 30 times more energy than other types of biofuel. As these technologies are refined, the balance between the pros and cons of biofuels changes.

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