Biofuels, including ethanol, are clean-burning, biodegradable and made from renewable resources. In addition to being used as fuel for transportation, biofuel can be converted to other useful forms of energy, including methane gas and heat. Ethanol is probably added to the gasoline you use in your car, so you may be more familiar with biofuel than you thought!
How Biofuels are Produced
Most biofuels are made through a chemical process called transesterification (trans-uh-ster-uh-fi-KAY- shun). This process separates the glycerin from animal fats or vegetable oil, leaving behind methyl esters (the chemical name for biodiesel) and glycerin (a valuable byproduct used in soaps and other products).
Ethanol is made by fermenting starch or sugar crops such as sugarcane, barley, rice, maize, potatoes, sorghum, sunflower, sugar beets, wheat and other grains, or even cornstalks, fruit and vegetable waste. The process is similar to the way beer is brewed!
Biodiesel is made by mixing cooking grease, vegetable oil or animal fat with alcohol. Like ethanol, it’s usually used as an additive to cut down on vehicle emissions. But biodiesel can also be used in its pure form as a fuel in diesel engines.