What Are Biofuels?


When you fill up at the gas station, you may have noticed labels stating the percentage of ethanol in your gasoline. Ethanol is a kind of biofuel made from sugar, corn, or other plant sources that have gone through a fermentation process.1 Other kinds of biofuels include oils and gasses derived from plant and animal matter.2

Unlike gasoline, which is derived from oil that has been locked up underground for millions of years, biofuels are derived from living matter that is part of the above-ground carbon cycle. Because the carbon in biofuels comes from the atmospheric CO2 used by an organism to grow, when biofuels are burned, the net CO2 in the environment does not change.3  This makes biofuels far more environmentally friendly than fossil fuels.1

Since supplies of fossil fuels will eventually dwindle, interest in renewal energy from biofuels is growing.1 In the near future, we may all be filling up our cars with fuel that started out on a farm, not deep in the earth.

  1. Zhouhui Tong, Pratap Pullammanappallil, and Arthur A. Teixeira, How Ethanol Is Made from Cellulosic Biomass, AE493, Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, 2015, https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ae493
  2. Ann C. Wilkie, “What is Biogas?” Biogas—A Renewable Fuel, November 13, 2013, http://biogas.ifas.ufl.edu/biogasdefs.asp
  3. J. A Stricker, G. M. Prine, D. L. Anderson, D. B. Shibles, and T. C. Riddle, Energy from Crops: Production and Management of Biomass/Energy Crops on Phosphatic Clay in Central Florida, CIR 1084, Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, 2015, https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/eh213
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Web Writer at IFAS Communications

Sam is originally from California and has her BA in linguistics and MFA in poetry. She loves art, animals, culture, and learning about science.

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