Differences Between Biomass Fuel & Fossil Fuel

Environmentally friendly products have been source of much discussion and significance. With examples like hydroelectric cars and usable solar energy, increasing attention has been paid to renewable forms of energy with much emphasis on biomass fuel. The main debate surrounding biomass fuel is its relationship to fossil fuels and its performance abilities in the long term.

  1. Fossil Fuel Form and Function

    • Coal is mined out of mines similar to this.
      Coal is mined out of mines similar to this.

      There are three fossil fuels; coal, oil and natural gas. According to the Department of Energy, they make up "over 85 percent of all the energy consumed in the United States."

      These fuels began being formed millions of years ago. Coal is mined and mixed with water to create a slurry that is used in power plants. Oil is pumped from beneath the Earth's surface in order to be refined into a multitude of products, the most recognized being gasoline.

      Like oil, natural gas is also pumped from beneath the Earth's crust.

    Biomass Fuel Form and Function

    • Corn is an common example of an agricultural biomass fuel.
      Corn is an common example of an agricultural biomass fuel.

      Biomass fuels are meant to mimic or replace the functions of fossil fuels. The Department of Energy defines biomass as "any plant derived organic matter available on a renewable basis." These organic matter consist of products such as wood, crops, alcohol fuels, landfill gas, agricultural waste and residues, and garbage. Biomass fuels are just beginning to be developed and their potential is still being cultivated.

    Fossil Fuel Environmental Effects

    • Example of the pollution produced by fossil fuels
      Example of the pollution produced by fossil fuels

      While both biomass and fossil fuels perform the same duties of producing energy, fuel, and various other materials, they differ greatly in their environmental effects. Both fossil fuels and biomass fuels affect the environment in two ways, their production and their usage.

      In order for many fossil fuels to be converted into a usable product like electricity, they must first be mined or drilled and then refined or burned. These processes produce an abundance of pollutants that are released into the air and some toxic waste that must then be disposed of or stored so as not to cause harm to the public. The products of fossil fuel refinement also release pollutants into the air when they are used.

    Biomass Fuel Environmental Effects

    • Tree growth is one example of the production of biomass fuels.
      Tree growth is one example of the production of biomass fuels.

      Biomass fuels go through a similar process as fossil fuels, but with a much more positive effect on the environment. Biomass fuels are created through natural processes that involve very little refinement and each fuel has a separate effect on the environment.

      Many biomass fuels are products of already-existing processes that aid the environment. However, biomass fuels have a similar effect on the environment as fossil fuels in their usage. Some biomass fuels must be burned to produce the desired product, releasing pollutants just as fossil fuels do.

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References

  • Photo Credit oil refinery 6 image by Aaron Kohr from Fotolia.com opencast mine image by cegli from Fotolia.com cornfield image by Bionic Media from Fotolia.com pollution image by Joseph Chiapputo from Fotolia.com fall trees on a mountainside image by Jorge Moro from Fotolia.com

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