The Biomass: Biofuels
Biomass is a solid, liquid or gaseous organic, non-fossil material of biological origin used for the production of heat, electricity or transport fuels. The biomass is composed of three main families of materials: woods or solid biomass, biogas, transport biofuels.
In June 2013 the French Ministry of the Ecology, Energy and Sustainable Development released a report entitled ‘’Renewable energy’s key figures’’ and “energy’s key figures’’ ( in French: Chiffres clés des énergies renouvelables’’ et ’’Chiffres clés de l’énergie): http://www.developpement-durable.gouv.fr/Chiffres-cles-et-donnees,29321.html
It is interesting to note some equivalences applying to the renewable energy sources.
Biofuels, also called “ agro-fuels”, come from the biomass. There are two main industrial sectors: ethanol and biodiesel. They can be used in their pure state as a substitute for conventional fuel in some countries or added to the classical fuels.
The biofuel energy potential is much higher than the oil’s one. It is interesting to note the equivalences recommended by the IEA and Eurostat:
In 2011, The primary production of energy from renewable sources in France amounted to 14% of which biofuel represented 10% (2427 ktoe). The strong focus on the agricultural sector allows France to become the second biggest biofuel producer in Europe ( behind Germany).
Graph 3 : The ten world’s major renewable energy producers in 2010 (rough estimates in millions of toe)
However, these energy sources can be renewed only if we replant vegetation. In the same way, it is also necessary to analyze how the land is cultivated.
A possible use of fertilizers and chemical pesticides which require oil throughout their processing can prevent their recognition as renewable products. In addition, excessive quantities of pesticides may entail a soil and water pollution.
Obviously, the cultivations meant for biofuels are valuable to the development of agriculture but ,on the other hand, not only do biofuels need huge lands but also they make monocultures a rule. For example two football fields in size are needed to grow colza crops to feed a family car for a year with biofuel.