What Are Biofuels and Why Do They Matter?

If you've watched the news lately, you've probably heard the term "biofuels" thrown around quite a bit. At its most basic definition, a biofuel is "a fuel derived directly from a living matter". What is so great about biofuels? For starters, biofuels are increasingly becoming more significantly cost effective than fossil fuels. However, it hasn't always been that way. In the early 1900's, petroleum based fuel was considered to be more cost effective. Biofuels are a lot older than you might think. According to, Biofuels coincided closely with the arrival of cars. As early as 1897 the inventor of the diesel engine, Rudolf Diesel showcased and demonstrated his diesel engine at the World Exhibtion held in Paris, France. It ran on peanut oil. In fact, America's beloved Ford Model T was originally designed to run on ethanol.

Besides being cheap, biofuels coincidentally are believed to be a much better option for the environment. Talk about killing two birds with one stone. According to Cornell University's Green Choices Blog, "Supporters of biofuels argue that their use could significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions; while burning the fuels produces carbon dioxide, growing the plants or biomass removes carbon diozide from the atmosphere."

biofuelsSo let's get our facts straight. Biofuels are more cost effective and they are better for the environment. Good. Glad we are now on the same page. However, there is more depth to the situation than meets the eye. According to British Petroleum, in two decades, the world's consumption of energy is projected to increase by almost half of it's current use. The word necessity doesn't even begin to describe this dilemma. In recent article released by BP, they stated, "With the world’s population projected to reach 8.6 billion by then, an additional 1.5 billion people will need energy. To meet this demand a diverse energy mix is needed. This is where biofuels can help; by 2035 the demand for biofuels will have doubled, growing from 2.5% to 4% (by energy)." The importance of the development of biofuels is carrying a heavy burden.

What does Mixer Direct have to do with biofuels? We thought you'd never ask. Mixer Direct works with a host of companies who are both friends and customers dedicated to inventing, developing, and continually producing new renewable energy sources. Biofuels are one of the clear cut leaders in answering the need for cleaner and better energy in this growing population and planet. We are thankful to play our role as this industry continues to accomplish great feats.


The Four Categories of Biofuels

Biofuels can be better understood when they are broken into categories. Although they are most commonly split into 4 categories or generations, there are a variable amount of sources from which biofuels can be derived. Below is a breakdown of each generation.

First Generation

First generation biofuels are derived from sources such as food crops, starches, sugars, and vegetable oil. First generation biofuels are also often referred to as conventional biofuels. Producing first generation biofuels include the conversion of these types of sources into a fuel. Biodiesel is the most well known and commonly produced fuel from these sources. Other first generation biofuels include, but are not limited to ethanol, biogasses, and bioalcohols.

Second Generation

Second generation biofuels are derived from agricultural waste or what some might refer to as non-food crops. Examples of second generation biofuels include organic waste, wood, or food crop waste. According to research at The University of Edinburgh, second generation biofuels are the ideal competitor when it comes to the replacement of fossil fuels. This is largely due to their overall cost effectiveness and do not utilize major food sources on our planet.

Third Generation

Third generation biofuels are highly intriguing due to their source, biomass. Most commonly produced from growing biomass sources like algae, third generation biofuels are made into a variety of products. Algae is a popular source due to its environmentally-friendly nature, low cost, and its incredible amount of energy output capabilities. Algae is a power house and is being envisioned as a biofuel with capabilities of out producing conventional crops in the energy arena. Other added benefits to biomass sourced biofuels like algae include easier growing processes than conventional crops and the capability of using water of a lower requirement than food crops.

Fourth Generation

Fourth generation biofuels are produced from biomass materials. However fourth generation differs from third generation biofuels. The key to understanding fourth generation biofuels is the process of catching and storing co2. According to the University of Edinburgh's research, "This process differs from second and third generation production as at all stages of production the carbon dioxide is captured using processes such as oxy-fuel combustion." Many believe fourth generation biofuels can actually replace fossil fuels which in turn will greatly lower co2 emissions. A final added benefit that can be added to fourth generation biofuels includes that it can be grown on land deemed non-agricultural.

Download Our Free Infographic