Tuesday, October 21, 2008

BioFuel Debate (1st part)

Biofuels originate from some type of biomass, or biological matter that can be used for fuel. The two most common types of biofuels are bioethanol and biodiesel. Bioethanol is created by fermenting sugar or starch; corn and sugar are most often used. Biodiesel, on the other hand, is made by combining alcohol, usually methanol, with vegetable oil, such as that found in soybeans, palm oil, animal fat or recycled cooking grease. Once biomass is converted into liquid fuel, it can be used for a variety of energy needs. Biofuel is not something new; in fact the first diesel engine by Rudolph Diesel in 1894 was made to run on biodiesel (hempseed oil).

Despite being around for more than a century, biofuel did not receive much attention until quite recently. Biofuel's popularity actually depends very much on the price of petroleum and there weren't any interest in biofuel when petroleum price was below USD$30.00 per barrel.

The use of biofuel as an alternative energy has got many countries exited including Malaysia. In the recent BioMalaysia opening speech, our PM has urged all relevant agencies to focus on new and economically viable biotech methods to produce renewable energy. But unfortunately biofuel receives a lot of negative connotation from the critics who believes that biofuel is not the real solution to the energy crisis. There is also the debate on the use of food crops to produce biofuel which can lead to increase of commodities prices such as palm oil if the oil palm is diverted to produce biofuel rather than for food.

In fact MPOB has also been directed to research on Jatropha on the viable production of biodiesel. Jatropha isn't new to Malaysia. I was told by an entrepreneur that Jatropha was brought to Malaysia by the Japanese during World War II to fuel their vehicles.

Before I get into real argument on which will be the best biofuel option for Malaysia, I would like to share the video presentation (Biofuels: Think Outside The Barrel) by Sillicon Valley billionaire, Vinod Khosla. In his one hour presentation, he shares his vision on making biofuel the best alternative to fosil fuel.

By Joel William

1 comment:

R. Kamalan said...

Hi there,

As an entrepreneur, biofuel has conjured up much interest. Have been visiting oil recycling plants around msia and doing a feasibility study at the current moment. As you have mentioned, its about commercialization, and the margin to generate profit is a tough task but we are finding possible ways to overcome this.
More articles on this topic is much appreciated. Thanks

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