AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
Liquid fossil fuels, such as paraffin (kerosene) and fuel oil, have been with us for many years.
Over the past decade, similar fuels, made by processing plants, trees and organic waste
products have become much more widely available. The rapid growth in the use of biofuels
stems from the soaring price of fossil oil, growing concern over security of supply and the
environmental impact of fossil fuels. The three main types of liquid fuel looked at in this
• Ethanol, made by fermenting sugar cane, grain, straw, grass and wood.
• Biodiesel, made from new or recycled vegetable oils and animal fats (e.g. from palm oil)
• Oils made by compressing seeds (such as jatropha oil). Production from algae is currently
Grown sustainably, biofuels have the potential to alleviate global warming and other negative
environmental issues such as the disposal of vast quantities of organic wastes.
Used responsibly, biofuels can have a major impact on levels of pollutants, both within the
homes of those living in poverty, and in the crowded cities of the developing world.
When biofuels first became widely
available they were heralded as the
Millions of litres per annum
new sustainable way to provide the
world with energy. More recently, the
use of land for growing crops which
are solely for energy has led to major
The market in biofuels has grown very
fast, as shown in the figures for
biodiesel provided by the Biodiesel
2020 survey (Emerging Markets
Online). As a result, environmentalists
1991 1993 1995 1997 1999 2001 2003 2005 2006
are calling for stricter global controls
Biodiesel production (source: Emerging markets
online: biodiesel survey 2020)
Of all opportunities for renewable energy from energy plantation biomass, sugar cane makes
the most sense. In many African countries where sugar was developed under colonial
economies, sugar was produced (mainly for export to Europe and beyond), while the residues,
such as molasses, were dumped into the rivers, leaching the oxygen from the water and
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