Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

How to Harness Biofuels

        Auto | Biofuels

Benefits of Harnessing Biofuels

There's a high bar for energy solutions today: They've got to be more efficient and save the planet. Can biofuels really save the day? As you might expect, there's no simple answer, and ultimately, they are but one piece in a much bigger energy puzzle.

Environmentally speaking, utilizing biofuels doesn’t add to the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere or add to global warming. Plants absorb carbon as they grow and release it when they're converted to energy. Likewise, animals consume plants, which they convert to fats and wastes (among other things), so the carbon from the plants is again released when these products are converted to energy.

Carbon has been locked inside coal and other fossil fuels for millions of years, and it stays there until we pull it out of the ground to burn. While the carbon inside these fuels once filled the air, it wasn’t part of the current annual cycle of the atmosphere.

From a political standpoint, using resources available in one’s own country means less dependence on foreign resources like crude oil. Filling some of the need for this energy with renewable biofuels at home could go a long way toward reducing international tension.

Biofuels are also beneficial to the economy in that the domestic nature of the resources necessary to harness them lies within local agricultural and forest regions.

To date, no single fuel source -- biofuel, fossil fuel, wind, solar or nuclear -- is capable of providing the answer to all our energy needs. However, improvements in technology are rapidly making it easier to harness biofuels and enable their development to contribute to a brighter future.