- Souha Zain El Din
- BBC News Arab
The global energy crisis, as well as the food crisis, is worsening, raising with them a question about the priority between them
It also raises a question about the benefit of producing biofuels, or biomass, from food crops and whether this comes at the expense of poor communities.
Biofuels, of all types, are defined as sustainable energy from living organisms, whether animal or plant.
Many countries have sought to grow certain types of plants specifically for use in biofuels, including corn and soybeans in the United States of America, sugar cane in Brazil, and palm oil in Asia. from the east.
The expected dwindling of energy resources has prompted many countries to look for alternative fuel sources and find solutions to overcome the problem of expected scarcity of fossil fuels. Therefore, some may consider biofuels as the optimal alternative.
The urgent desire of countries to find alternative sources of fossil fuels stems from their quest to overcome the fluctuations of the world oil market and its high prices. First, while statistics from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) indicate that Middle Eastern countries control more than half of the world’s crude oil reserves and more than 40% of natural gas reserves .
types of biofuels
A distinction must be made between biofuels. The best known is bioethanol, also called ethanol, which is an alcohol produced from corn, potatoes, wheat, sugar cane and vegetable waste.
As for biodiesel, it is a vegetable or animal oil that is used as a substitute for petroleum diesel or in a mixture with it in diesel-powered cars and industrial fleets.
There is also biogas, a by-product of the decomposition of plant and animal waste in oxygen-poor environments: landfills, waste treatment facilities and dairies.
There are solid biofuels which are extracted by burning biomass such as wood and used for cooking, heating and lighting.
The use of wood for heating, lighting and cooking releases large amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The smoke you give off also has harmful health effects, especially when used indoors.
Many communities that burn wood also have an adequate supply of another fuel source. They just need the tools to pick it up and use it. Many of them have a lot of cattle excrement and lack sanitary facilities. This lack of sanitation creates health risks
Hence the need to use biogas rather than biofuels
Transforming waste into biogas can solve the energy problem and the health problem. Building a biogas system for a country house is much easier than building other types of systems.
Biogas is the most widely adopted in the world, but can be particularly beneficial for developing countries, especially in rural areas.
Biogas production requires an airtight pit, a method of feeding animal manure, and a toilet in the pit.
Here, the residue decomposes rapidly, releasing methane. This methane flows through a pipe into the house where you can turn it on and off when you need it. This system also produces pathogen-free excreta, which farmers can use as fertilizer.
One of the benefits of biofuels is that by 2050 they could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by around 1.7 billion tonnes per year, which is equivalent to more than 80% of current transport emissions. .
The cycle of production and use of this fuel as a whole reduces approximately 80% of carbon dioxide emissions and nearly 100% of sulfur dioxide emissions.
It also leads to significant reductions in the proportion of toxic carbon monoxide emissions compared to what is produced by used oil, and it also reduces the risk of cancer for other fuels by 90%.
Liquid biofuel or biodiesel
As for biodiesel, it contains 11% oxygen, and contains no percentage of sulfur
Its use can extend the life of diesel engines because it contains a higher level of lubrication than that found in petroleum.
Biodiesel is safe to handle and transport because its biodegradation is similar to that of sugar and its toxicity is 10 times lower than that of table salt.
The success of this technology has been proven through experience, as it has been used to drive vehicles 30 million miles in the United States of America alone.
In addition, its combustion does not produce unpleasant odors such as those produced by the combustion of fossil fuels, and thus eliminates a form of pollution.
Middle East and North Africa
Salman Dhofar, an expert on biofuels in the Arab Gulf region, told the BBC: “There is a big debate about energy versus food. That’s what has hindered the development of this sector in developing countries such as India, Bangladesh and countries in the Middle East”, pointing out that “biogas is the best solution for the Middle East
A report published by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations “FAO” concluded that the production of biofuels will increase hunger in the world.
The report says that producing 13 liters of ethanol requires about 231 kg of corn, which is enough to feed a starving child in a poor country for an entire year.
Lack of food security is one of the worst characteristics that characterize the economies of countries such as the Nile Basin countries, for example. Such as Ethiopia, Eritrea, Burundi, Kenyan Uganda, Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo
Dr Rand Awwad, an expert in energy security and renewable energy, told the BBC from Amman: “Garbage or waste in general is used as fuel for power stations or as heat to heat buildings and homes. Is it enough (to eliminate waste)?” No. Is it glory? Here is the question
According to the International Energy Agency, biogas development is the most common method of producing biomethane today. But the production of biomass gas remains a relatively niche market. This, and the lack of stable regulation for the use of liquid biofuels, is the biggest impediment to the growth of this market.
There is the amount of waste, the technologies used and the infrastructure needed for transporting and distributing energy. Location is of great importance here, according to Awwad
Dhofar, founder of the India-based Blogging Hub, says the Middle East region “generates around 200 million tons of solid waste a year. Countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have the highest per capita waste rates, and are in the top ten countries.” In this context, 50% of this waste is organic, most of it ends up in landfills and landfills without treatment, thus polluting the environment and consuming the country’s natural resources. If 50% of this waste is organic, it means that we have 100 million tons per year. It is free to use the waste to generate clean energy, make fertilizers, etc.
Salman Dhofar believes that this waste “can produce energy and generate electricity. However, currently there are only a limited number of biogas plants in the Middle East, one in Jordan, two in the Emirates and one in Qatar, which, due to its small size, does not generate energy.” enough energy to cover the need.”
According to the European Environment Agency, the use of biofuels has contributed to reducing the intensity of greenhouse gas emissions from road transport in the European Union. However, the agency considers it important to ensure that the growing demand for biofuels does not negatively impact land use by displacing food and feed crop production and converting land, such as forests and wetlands, into agricultural land, indirectly leading to increased greenhouse gas emissions.
Dr Awwad points out that “the conversion process or method of producing this energy is not just a question of input (biomass), but there is also a question of the process used in it”.
Regarding the extraction of biogas, “this in itself is expensive and requires energy. Is it feasible or not? It depends on the volume of waste or even on the agricultural crops, and it is a subject of controversy “, she said.
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