A few weeks ago, in one of INSPIRE’s last summer sessions, we jumped into the topic of biofuels.
Biofuels, for those who don’t know, are fuels made from plants or bacteria. They are designed to replace fossil fuels, aka oil, so we can curb our carbon emissions. CO2 emissions have been linked to global climate change, and the use of fossil fuels is a HUGE contributor to this! The more CO2 in the air, the more heat held by the atmosphere, and the greater disturbed our climate.
While biofuels seem on the surface like a near perfect solution, we quickly found ourselves extremely dissatisfied with their potential. For one, they’re less energy efficient than traditional fossil fuels. For another, they really aren’t having that much success in market. Sure, biodiesel is used, but really only in fringe populations. They’re also bad for the environment (lead to deforestation) and compete with our crop lands (because hunger isn’t a widespread problem). It’s a wonder they were offered up as a solution at all.
As we kept unraveling the cozy sweater of hope that was biofuels, we realized they aren’t the answer to our fuel woes that we thought they were.
Now, we’re just cold, and wishing some sort of new engine or radically new fuel type we haven’t even dreamed off yet can save the day. We lobbied for several ideas using engineered microbes (using that biology, son!), but found limitations to all of them upon careful inspection. Some were limited by their bulk, ie the amount of fuel needed to power something being excessive. Others, were limited by the lack of practicality and lack of interest by scientists and big fuel companies alike. In the end, we set our sites on those same engineered microbes, but this time to convert waste into fuel. Or in simple terms, making our fuel out of poop. But this too is pretty far off.
Until then, we may need to actually take a look at our habits and try to be more environmentally conscious. We quipped about training people with incentives or public shame to be eco-friendly. It worked with oral hygiene, why not this too?!
For a more in-depth look, check out this post.