This house would subsidize biofuels

Biofuels are sources of energy which come from living, renewable sources, such as crops, trees and even animal manure. Fossil fuels like oil, gas and coal, on the other hand, formed in the earth from decaying vegetation many millions of years ago, and cannot be renewed. In recent years biofuels have come to mean fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel which can be burned in engines to drive vehicles in place of fossil fuels like petroleum and diesel. Ethanol can be made from a variety of crops, such as maize or sugarcane, while biodiesel is often made from palm oil, soya or rapeseed (canola). In the past biofuels have not been given much attention (save in Brazil, which has little oil but much sugar cane to convert into transport fuel), but this is rapidly changing[1]. As the price of oil has soared in the past few years and biofuel production methods have improved, the price gap has narrowed considerably although levels of subsidy are an important part of the economic equation. Biofuels have also been promoted as a way of reducing carbon emissions and so of tackling global climate change.

In most cases ethanol or biodiesel is mixed with regular gasoline or diesel – typically 5% or 10% of what comes out of the pump is biofuel, but it can be as high as 85%[2]. The US saw a 14% increase in biofuel consumption in 2009, and the federal government wants 30% of gasoline to come from biofuels within 25 years[3]. The EU has similar targets, although in Europe biodiesel is more important than ethanol at present[4]. This topic looks at whether biofuels really are better than fossil fuels, and if governments should continue and develop policies to promote biofuel production and use. The specific arguments will vary a little from country to country, but the principles behind them should be relevant everywhere.







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