corn in trunk

Biofuels could help the world break its dependency on fossil fuels, but how will growing these crops affect society and the environment?


Humans crave energy. We lap it up like a thirsty dog at a water dish. We need energy to heat our homes, power our factories and light our streets. Energy makes things happen. Yet, the world's energy supply is far from limitless. Most of our energy comes from fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas. And one day the world will run out of them, and, our chief sources of power.

Still, our desire for fossil fuels, especially oil, is insatiable. Consider this: Humans consume 85 million barrels of oil a day; Americans alone use 18.6 billion barrels a day [source: Cocks, Central Intelligence Agency]. Analysts say oil production hit its peak in 2006, but the global economy is only expanding [source: Sills]. Experts say worldwide energy use will likely increase by 36 percent during the next 25 years, with China alone increasing its consumption by 75 percent, further straining the global energy supply [source: Sills]. Not to mention, burning fossil fuels releases greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, which are harmful to the environment and the health of individuals.

What does this all mean? Experts say we need to decrease our dependence on fossil fuels and find alternative sources of energy. One of those alternatives is to create fuel from plants, also known as biofuels. Some of these so-called "energy crops" include corn, wheat, soybeans, algae and even sunflowers. Scientists are also engineering the genes of some plant species hoping to make them grow faster and larger, and able to store more energy.

But these energy crops have the potential to impact our society and environment in ways we do not fully understand. Read on to find out how they could affect you and future generations.