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Can Bioenergy help Restore the Impact of Fossil Fuel Emissions?

Updated: Dec 19, 2022

Fossil Fuels: An Indispensable Energy Resource

Coal, oil, and petroleum are the world’s most widely used fuels. Their ready availability and continuous supply are the primary reason these fuels are highly indispensable. They are nonrenewable resources and constitute more than 70% of the world’s fuel supplies for power generation. Coal and oil reserves are found in depths of the earth and are unequally distributed which significantly affects their pricing and availability across the globe.

Global Energy Use in various End-use Sectors by Type of Fuel (2018) (Source)

Impact of Fossil Fuels: A Global Challenge

Fossil fuels have a large amount of carbon trapped inside them which is released as carbon dioxide (CO2) upon combustion. Identified as one of the primary greenhouse gasses, fossil fuel combustion in industries accounts for more than 80% of global carbon dioxide emissions each year. It is important to understand their impact to evaluate the actual price we are paying for their extensive use for energy generation and transportation.

Mining (of coal) and drilling (of liquid and gaseous fossil fuels) are the two predominant ways of fossil fuel extraction. According to an article published in the Union of Concerned Scientists, activities like fracking require about 3-6 million gallons of water per well and close to 15-60 thousand gallons of other chemicals. As per their findings, this is a matter of serious concern as it is likely to have serious implications affecting the whole planet.

A great amount of information is also available on how drilling brings water trapped inside the depths of the ground to the surface. Hydrocarbons, radioactive material, and heavy metals trapped in this water make it unfit for human consumption and a challenge to dispose of.

For a long time, authorities have been turning a blind eye to how these processes are negatively impacting the environment while posing enormous health risks to the people involved in carrying out these labour-intensive processes.

Further, transportation of each type of fossil fuel over long distances from the place of production to the end-user also adds to pollution. It raises serious safety concerns, such as exposure to coal dust, gas leaks in pipelines, and oil spills in oceans, to mention a few. In recent decades, there has been no definite solution to address these challenges.

Phasing out Fossil Fuels is one way to Combat its Negative Impact

Bioenergy is a form of renewable energy and has shown a lot of potential in mitigating the negative impact of fossil fuels through domestic production. Here is a small example. Energy from loose biomass such as agricultural waste can be aggregated and processed to make biofuels that are energy dense and burn with more or less the same efficiency as coal. Lower emissions also make them an ideal choice to replace fossil fuels. They can be sourced, processed, and transported locally which greatly reduces their cost of production and transport in comparison to that of fossil fuels.