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Collective Roots
What are biofuels?
 Biofuels are a source of
  energy similar to gasoline.
  Instead of coming from the
  ground through oil wells,
  however, we make biofuels
  directly from plants. Almost
  anything that grows from soil
  can be converted into
  biofuels. Because plants
  capture energy from the sun
  through photosynthesis, we
  can harness this energy in
  the biofuels to generate
  electricity or use as fuel for
  our cars.
                                   Fig. 1
 What is wrong with our
 normal energy sources?
             Currently, we pollute our
              planet with a gas known as
              carbon dioxide, or CO2. CO2
Fig. 2        comes from things that burn
              gasoline or coal – like power
              plants and cars.
             CO2 is a greenhouse gas
              and causes global warming.
              The more of it we release
              into the atmosphere, the
              warmer the earth becomes.
 Fig. 3      A warmer earth could mean
              rising sea-levels and more
              dangerous weather like
How are Biofuels better?
  Biofuels reduce CO2 pollution
   because they come from
   plants. When plants breathe,
   they breathe in CO2 and
   breathe out oxygen. During a
   plant’s lifetime, it inhales a lot
   of CO2. When we burn
   biofuels, like when we use
   them in our cars, we still
   release CO2 into the air but
   since the plant already turned
   so much CO2 into oxygen we
   effectively reduce the overall
   pollution to almost nothing.

                                        Fig. 4
What do we use to make
             Biofuels today commonly
              come from plants like corn
              and sugarcane because we
              can grow them abundantly.
             We capture the energy from
              these plants through a
              process called fermentation.
              This is done by letting fungi -
              usually yeast - turn the sugars
              in the plant into ethanol. The
              resulting ethanol can then be
              put directly into our cars as a
   Fig. 5
              clean energy source.
 Although corn and sugarcane are excellent attempts for
  reducing CO2 pollution, they do have drawbacks.
    Corn is not a very good source of ethanol. It takes about a gallon
     of gasoline just to produce a gallon of ethanol. Some experts
     argue that since we must use so much gasoline to make ethanol,
     we might as well continue to use gasoline.
    Corn is also a food crop. By using corn for fuel, we reduce the
     amount of food left to feed the world. This causes food prices to
     rise across the globe and can lead to world hunger.
    Sugarcane is much better at producing ethanol than corn, however
     it only grows in tropical climates that receive plenty of rain.
     Sugarcane grows well in Brazil, but not in the United States.
How can we improve
            There are more options besides corn
             and sugarcane for producing biofuels.
             In fact, there are two that are
             significantly better. One is a poisonous
             plant called jatropha the other grows in
             ponds in your own back yard, it is algae.
             These two fuel sources don’t make
             ethanol, but instead make bio-diesel
             fuel. Bio-diesel is slightly different than
             ethanol because it is made from lipids –
             fats that contain lots of energy. When
  Fig. 6
             you think of bio-diesel, think of your car
             running on vegetable oil.
Jatropha (ja-TROW-fuh)
              The jatropha plant makes seeds that are full
               of oil. We can extract, or squeeze out, this oil
               and turn it into biodiesel fuel.
              The advantage of jatropha is that it grows in
               places where most plants cannot. It does not
               need fertilizers or even good soil to grow
               well. All jatropha needs 24 inches of rain
               each year and four months of temperatures
               above 55ºF. The benefit of this plant is that
  Fig. 7       we don’t have to use precious farmland to
               grow it. Jatropha can be grown in some
               places in the Southwest like Texas and
              One nice thing about jatropha is that it can
               be grown profitably. Farms that grow
               jatropha exclusively for biofuels can earn
               quite a bit of money, especially when it
               competes with high gasoline prices.

  Fig. 8
Jatropha – more info

  For more information or to explore
   jatropha visit
  For a short video on jatropha see
Algae (al-gee)
  Algae (al-gee) is an organism,
   or life form, that grows in
   water. It is often the “green
   stuff” you see growing in
   ponds. Algae is an excellent
   source of biofuel because
   much of its body is made of
   lipids, fats that store energy
   very well. The nice thing
   about algae is that it thrives
   on our wastewater. So not
   only does algae help clean
   the environment as a biofuel,
   but it also cleans up our water
                                     Fig. 9
Algae – more info

  Watch this video to see how amazing this
   gooey, green organism can be

                                   Fig. 10
Okay, I’m convinced Biofuels
can help save the planet,
now what?
  Help spread the word! We need to act fast in order to
   stop global warming before it is too late. Biofuels are
   one way to tremendously help reduce our carbon
   dioxide air pollution.
  You can help Collective Roots promote biofuels by
   supporting their bio-diesel van. Collective Roots is
   raising money to purchase a van so that we can inform
   more people - just like you – about the advantages of
   using biofuels!
  To make a donation visit
Picture Credits
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