What is biofuel and how sustainable is it really?

What is biofuel and how sustainable is it really?

Biofuel. A hot topic in the world of energy. It is mainly used in transport (cars, trucks and planes), but environmentally friendly generators, for example, also run on it. Companies and governments are therefore increasingly betting on it. Indeed, fuel suppliers are now required to blend biofuels. But what exactly is biofuel? What are the advantages and disadvantages? And is it actually as sustainable as people claim – or are there better alternatives?

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What is biofuel and how sustainable is it really?

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What is biofuel

Biofuel is the collective name for fuels made from biomass. Unlike fossil fuels, biofuels are renewable. This means that the source can be used again and again to produce fuel. In the fight against climate change and towards a more sustainable world, they are therefore receiving increasing attention.


There are different types of biofuel:

First generation
First-generation biofuels are mainly made from food. For example, a chemical process is used to make bioethanol from sugar cane, corn and grain. And from vegetable oils and animal fats again form the basis of biodiesel.

Second generation
Second-generation biofuel is made from plants and fats not intended for consumption. You can think of straw, wood chips, used frying fat or even residual waste.

Third generation
Third-generation biofuel uses even less harmful sources as fuel. In practice, this mainly means algae and seaweed. However, the technology for cost-effective energy production from these sources is still under development.

Is biofuel sustainable?

Biofuel sounds sustainable. After all, no fossil fuel is used and the sources are renewable. Yet it is not as sustainable as you might think. A lot of energy is (still) needed to produce the fuel and to transport it. In addition, CO2 and nitrogen are still released during combustion and forests are cut down to release agricultural land for biomass production.

Advantages & disadvantages

Using biofuel has several advantages and disadvantages:

The big advantage of biofuel is, of course, that it is more environmentally friendly than fossil fuels. Yes, it releases CO2. But that is usually the same CO2 that the biomass took out of the air during their growth. That makes it climate-neutral. In addition, with biofuels we are also no longer dependent on oil-producing countries from, say, the Middle East.

The disadvantage of biofuel is that CO2 is now also emitted during production and transport. This reduces profits or even causes more CO2 to be released into the atmosphere. Increased production also requires more agricultural land. This is at the expense of nature and causes competition with food crops. Especially with first generation fuels!

Alternative: solar energy

Biomass is one of the ways you can generate electricity sustainably. Just like from wind, water and the sun. Of all these renewable sources, solar energy is the most sustainable. Solar panels do not affect local nature, do not cause nuisance and do not emit CO2. Nothing. With that, the emissions from production are often recovered within a few years. Also read: how sustainable is solar energy?

Also commit to renewable energy?

Biogas and liquid biofuels may be a step in the right direction, but there is still room for improvement. In fact, by using solar energy, more environmental benefits can be achieved and the costs can be recovered relatively quickly … and we would be happy to help you. Feel free to contact us to discuss the possibilities or request an instant quotation for one of our mobile solar panels!

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