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Biofuels - background

This page provides some background information on biofuels. What they are, their uses, why they are suddenly so topical.

What are biofuels?

Put simply, they are fuels that can be produced from organic material rather than fossil fuels. Here is an official definition :

Biofuels are liquid fuels produced from organic matter rather than from fossil fuels, which are a finite and non-renewable resource. Most biofuels are currently produced from food and fodder crops. Known as first generation biofuels, they are found in two different forms depending upon their source material. Biodiesel is produced from oils such as rendered animal fats, rapeseed and palm oil. Bioethanol is produced from the fermentation of any feedstock that contains a high content of sugar or starch; typical feedstocks include sugarcane, sugar beet, maize, and starchy cereals such as wheat and barley. Biomass is solid organic matter, such as wood or straw, which is burned to provide either heat or electricity or both. Biomass, biofuels and other non-fossil organic fuels are collectively known as bioenergy.
(Environmental Audit Committee, 2008: 5)


What are they used for?

Biofuels can be used for road fuel, domestic heating and power stations.


Why are they suddenly so topical?

There are three factors that have combined to make biofuels an attractive set of alternatives to fossil fuels:


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