Biofuels – in favor, against or not really…

There are some crops designated energy crops, since they are used for  biomass production used as a source of electric, thermal energy, and biofuels.

Two of the most known biofuels are:

Biodiesel – methyl ester produced from animal or vegetable oils, in the latter the type of plants is oleaginous like the sunflower, rapeseed, thistle or soybean;

Bioethanol – ethanol produced from starch plants (from which is extracted starch) such as wheat, sorghum, corn, potatoes and sugar beet.

In Portugal, the production of material for this industry is still scarce, so the biofuel ready to use or the raw material to be transformed is frequently imported (in this latter situation there is a slight economic advantage, since you are contributing to the development of new industries and to the creation of some jobs in the country).

But are biofuels a real environmentally friendly alternative to fossil fuels?

These fuels are perceived as one of the short-term solutions to reducing the greenhouse gas emissions.

However, both their production and marketing continue to be discussed due to some ethical questions such as:

  • If the production of biofuel it isn`t local, if you are only replacing an importation for another, with all the environmental costs that this entails;
  • The use of agricultural land for energy production that may be necessary for food production;
  • The intensive land use beside promoting the release of GHGs  on a larger scale than a set-aside land, lead to an increase  use of synthetic chemical products where already have been spent large amounts of fossil fuels for their production;
  • The deforestations, often illegal and in areas considered to be the “lung of humanity” so that the land is cultivated with these alternative crops.

The OpenPD app with its features, can help to mitigate some of these issues, by promoting the identification of pests and diseases and allowing potential epidemics alerts …

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The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Union Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement no. 632738.

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