Biofuel is a general term for material that is derived from renewable resources and used to create heat and energy. Historically, the most common form of biofuel is firewood. Today, manufactured biofuels come in many forms and are created from renewable organic materials such as corn, soybeans, sugar cane, willow, straw, and manure, and traditional wastes such as sewage and used cooking oils. These materials are collectively known as biomass.
Biodiesel is one common form of biofuel. It can be used as a diesel fuel replacement in existing vehicles and infrastructure. Biodiesel can be created from used vegetable oil from fryers used in food service facilities, such as campus cafeterias and restaurants. Through a refining process, it is converted to a liquid similar to mineral diesel. The benefits of this process are many: use of renewable fuel sources that can power existing equipment, removal of products from the waste stream, and minimized pollution of the environment through lower carbon dioxide emissions.
Biofuels are one piece of the energy puzzle facing our world. Researchers are working to improve the cost effectiveness of the process and to scale up production. Currently, it takes a significant amount of biomass to create a little biofuel, and because many of these raw materials are also used to feed humans and animals, their production must be balanced with these needs. Biofuels can displace a portion of the demand for fossil fuels and help create a cleaner environment.