Biofuels are also known as non conventional or alternative fuels. Alternative fuels can be classified as any fuel that is not derived from conventional sources like petroleum, coal and natural gas. Other than biofuels, some more examples of alternative fuels are solar, wind and tidal power, hydrogen, air engine power and non-conventional oil. Since mankind discovered fire, wood has been the first biofuel used for heating and cooking. This biofuel has also been used to produce electricity, and liquid biofuel have been used in the automotive industry since its inception.
Unlike fossil fuels, which are necessarily derived from long deceased and metamorphosed biological organisms, biofuels (otherwise known as agrofuels) are obtained from only recently deceased or from living biological organisms, or in other words, derived from biomass or bio-waste.
Many food sources and plant crops are the main feedstock for biofuels, and as such one must take into consideration the deleterious effects of biofuel production on the natural resources of any particular region. These feedstocks may enter into animal as well as human food chains, and as biofuel production has increased, there has been criticism for diverting food away from human consumption, which can lead to food shortages and increased food prices.
The demand for biofuels is directly correlated to the price of oil. Henceforth, while discussing the benefits of biofuels, the pitfalls must be kept apparent, before sustainable biofuel production can be realized.
This chapter presents and overview of biofuels and the types of biomass that are used for biofuels production. Variations in biofuel properties with the biomass feedstock are also described.