Biofuels are generated from fermentation of sugar or decomposition of organic matter or biomass. Biomass for liquid fuels is usually a crop high in sugar content such as corn or sugarcane, while biomass for gaseous fuels such as methane is produced from most any source rich in organic content. Biomass power production can furthermore be derived from the burning and incineration of organic material, such as wood and wood products. It is possible to convert these fuels into various forms of energy such as electricity, which could result in significant social and economic benefits as advances in the application of this technology are developed.
The use of waste biomass as an energy source has inherent environmental benefits. Biogas emissions such as methane from agricultural and municipal waste would otherwise contribute to global warming were they not used as an energy source. This energy potential (that would otherwise be lost) requires no further development as an energy source. However the environmental benefit only extends to waste biomass sources and not other sources of biomass specifically developed for power generation. In other words, energy used by converting waste biomass has a negative carbon footprint while bio-energy harvested from a biomass sink or reservoir can have a positive carbon footprint if these carbon sinks and reservoirs are not properly maintained and re-grown or replenished. This is due to the release of previously stored carbon into the atmosphere. Thus, improvements in biomass power generation rely foremost on the acquisition of biomass capital from waste resources as opposed to virgin sources.
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