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Sustainable Innovations to Help Preserve Our World, Part 3 of a Multi-Part Series: Greener Fuels for a Greener World

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On today's program, we’ll explore sustainable green fuels, how to develop them, and their great potential for a greener future.

Green fuels, also called biofuels or drop-in biofuels, are fuels derived from biomass sources by applying various mechanical, thermo-chemical, and biochemical conversion methods. Green fuels are chemically identical to petroleum-based gasoline, diesel fuel, and jet fuel and so can be used in existing engines, pumps, and other devices without the need for modification. In addition, CO2 emissions derived from green fuels are not considered greenhouse gas emissions because growing the biomass feedstocks used to produce biofuels may offset the CO2 generated when biofuels are burned so there’s almost no net change in atmospheric carbon.

We’ll next cover the most common and best biomass sources and technologies developed and used to create greener fuels.

Recently, green biofuel production from different microbial-originated biomass materials has been getting a lot of attention because of its eco-friendly nature and use of carbon-neutral resources. Algae growing in waste water can accumulate biomass through photosynthesis. Algae contain up to 50% oil, allowing biofuel to be made quickly and efficiently. Algae are also the original source of the fossil fuels currently being used.

Like algae, water hyacinth, an invasive plant, is an excellent source of biofuels. In rural communities Kenyans have turned water hyacinth into biofuel, providing an effective alternative to firewood and charcoal.

Converting biomass into biogas for use in cooking is only the first step toward sustainability. Scientists have made a breakthrough by finding a way to turn biogas into jet fuel. The US-based company Fulcrum BioEnergy, Inc. is producing clean transportation fuels, especially jet fuel, from landfill waste.

Another new clean source for green biofuel found in recent years is bacteria. Regarding this breakthrough, researcher Aidan Cowan says, “We were able to engineer soil bacteria called streptomyces to produce a new type of fuel which would be impossible to make with synthetic chemistry.”
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