Alternative fuel supplies have become a hot topic in recent years. After all, the fossil fuels being used to provide energy today are in limited supply and will eventually be exhausted. In addition, the greenhouse gases produced by burning fossil fuels are contributing to the problem of global warming. Biomass is being looked at seriously as an alternate fuel source. Bioenergy is the power produced by burning biomass or biomass fuels. Many people do not understand the distinction between biomass and bioenergy.
Biomass is the source of bioenergy. It is organic matter in the form of wood, leaves, grasses, seeds, and all the other forms that plants and animals can take as living or recently dead organisms and parts thereof. In many cases, it must be processed in some way to convert it to a usable fuel that is capable of producing energy. Such forms include pellets used to fire a generator in the same way that coal is used today, alcohol that is burned as motor fuel, and methane gas, which can be used in much the same way as natural gas.
Bioenergy is the term used to refer to the energy, heat or electricity, that is created by burning biofuels. In most cases, it makes up a relatively small percentage of the energy generated in vehicles and power plants that still burn fossil fuels.
Wood chips, pellets, and biomass briquettes are blended in with coal to fire conventional electrical generating plants. This is done because it helps to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases from the plant.
Ethanol is added to gasoline at a ratio of ten percent by volume in most states today. Some places are also experimenting with a mixture that is fifteen percent ethanol to eighty five percent gasoline. Biodiesel is made from vegetable oils and animal tallow and burns in a standard diesel engine.
Studies are underway to find more types of biomass that can be used to create fuel and more efficient ways to convert it into that fuel. As the system is improved, automobile manufacturers, power plants, and other industries will begin to change their energy systems over so that a higher percentage of the energy produced comes from biomass.
The production of bioenergy is still in its infant stages at the present time. It is hoped that many of the problems that plague the industry in terms of collecting biomass and converting it to fuel will be worked out in short order. After all, the fossil fuels are not going to last forever, but man's need for energy will.
Understanding the interaction of and the distinction between biomass and bioenergy is one step toward solving many of the world's energy problems and slowing or stopping the emission of greenhouse gases from the combustion of fossil fuels into the atmosphere. Focusing more attention on finding ways to produce renewable energy sources is working to increase public awareness and industry acceptance of the need to convert to biofuels for as many energy needs as possible in as short a time as possible.