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Sustainability and Resilience

by | Mar 21, 2022 | Biofuels, Green Energy

Introduction

Sustainability is the approach of decreasing environmental impact and enhancing the quality of life for communities. Resilience is the convention of organizing things to persist physical, social, and economic shocks and strains.

Sustainability has become a trend and is used everywhere. When discussing the environment, the focus on sustainably using our existing resources to avoid exhausting them for further generations is essential. However, it is crucial to not lose focus from other conservation endeavor concepts that can help protect the environment. Resilience, unlike sustainability, is not a substitute. The two concepts complement each other, and the implementation of resilience will only continue to aid the environment. Resilience is the future when bouncing back from change has become our reality.

Sustainability and Resilience

Environmental Sustainability

The obligation to conserve environmental resources and maintain global ecosystems to support health and welfare today and in the future is known as environmental sustainability. Many of our actions that affect our environment usually have a long-term harmful impact. Our steps taken after considering consequences on the environment are one of the aspects of environmental sustainability. 

The amount of energy we utilize has far-reaching impacts. Driving to work, for example, consumes gasoline that is ultimately linked to both foreign war and global climate change. The capacity to harness energy, especially in the form of fossil energy like petrol, coal, and natural gas, is critical to contemporary civilization’s prosperity.

Only 10% of the world’s energy demands are met by sustainable energy, which is derived from renewable resources such as the sun, wind, water, and agriculture. What’s remarkable is that in a year, useable but unharnessed solar and wind resources create 50 times the amount of energy that the world consumes right now.

Bioenergy has a promising future as a global energy source. Based on predicted changes in land use and technical improvements, the researchers calculated the global future of biofuels from biomasses and food crops in 2070. Even though their study covered every country on the planet, only 55 were deemed significant owing to substantial biomass resources.

Bioenergy Sustainability

Biofuels are being marketed as a low-carbon alternative to fossil fuels because they can assist in reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and the climate change effect associated with transportation. However, there are fears that its widespread use would have unexpected environmental implications. 

Various life cycle assessment (LCA) studies have studied climate change and other biofuels’ environmental implications. However, their conclusions are frequently contradictory, with a broad range of estimations. As a result, this research aims to evaluate and analyze the most recently available information to gain a better knowledge of the environmental implications of various liquid biofuels.

First-generation biofuels can have lower GHG emissions than fossil fuels on average if no land-use change (LUC) is involved, but the reductions for most feedstocks are inadequate to fulfill the GHG savings needed by the EU Renewable Energy Directive (RED). On the other hand, second-generation biofuels have a larger potential to cut emissions, assuming there is no LUC. Third-generation biofuels are not a viable choice at this time since their GHG emissions are greater than those produced by fossil fuels.

Biogas from waste has a smaller carbon footprint and a similar water impact as natural gas over lengthy periods. However, using the 20-year Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) parameters, biogas methane emissions substantially compensate for fossil CO2 emissions in our scenario, and there is no discernible difference when uncertainty is taken into account.

Emissions from Biofuels

Biofuel burning produces much less net GHG emissions than traditional petroleum-derived fuel combustion. On the other hand, biofuel synthesis emits greenhouse gases at every stage of the supply chain, from raw feedstock production through transportation, conversion, and biofuels distribution and ultimate use.

Biofuels burn cleaner than gasoline, emit fewer greenhouse gases, and are biodegradable, unlike certain fuel additives. The usage of cellulosic ethanol can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 86%. Ethanol is a safe, high-performance substitute for gasoline additives like MTBE since it biodegrades quickly and does not affect the environment.

Because fossil energy is needed to grow biomass crops and manufacture biofuels, the usage of ethanol may raise emissions of some air pollutants. These emissions can be lowered by using renewable energy and better farming practices.

Federal and state programs have supported corn ethanol since the 1970s, but biofuels have gained popularity to increase energy independence and lower oil imports.

Biofuel production needs to open up the CO2 drain – such that it must increase the net rate at which carbon is eliminated from the atmosphere – to lower atmospheric CO2 levels.

Growing more maize and soybeans has increased the “drain” of CO2, primarily by displacing other crops. This is especially true for maize, whose enormous yields remove two tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere every acre, far quicker than most other crops.

Carbon Footprint

The quantity of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions connected with all of a person’s or other entity’s actions is their carbon footprint. It comprises direct emissions from fossil-fuel burning in industry, heating, and transport, and emissions connected with the production of power for products and services used. In addition, additional greenhouse gases such as methane, nitrous oxide, and chlorofluorocarbons are frequently included in the carbon footprint idea.

Carbon footprints concentrate on greenhouse gas emissions connected with consumption rather than production. They take into account emissions from commodities imported into a country but manufactured abroad and emissions from international transportation and shipping, which are not included in typical national inventories. As a result, a country’s carbon footprint might rise even if carbon emissions within its boundaries fall.

Individuals and businesses may lower their carbon footprints and thereby contribute to global climate mitigation in various ways. They can compensate the emitted carbon for some or all of their impact by purchasing carbon offsets (broadly defined as an investment in a carbon-reducing activity or technology). They will be carbon neutral if they acquire enough carbon offsets to offset their carbon footprint.

Improved energy efficiency and changes in lifestyles and shopping patterns can all help to minimize carbon footprints.

Advanced Low Carbon Fuels

Low-carbon fuels can be utilized to replace traditional fossil fuels in various situations. Low-carbon fuels may be used in various vehicles, including personal automobiles, lorries, off-road vehicles, ships, and more. Purchasing electricity generated from low-carbon fuels or renewable energy sources is another approach for a company to lower its carbon impact.

Biofuels, hydrogen, and other electrofuels created from clean power can be used to heat manufacturing processes instead of fossil fuels. These low-carbon fuels are significant in applications where electrification is prohibitively expensive or where extremely high temperatures are required.

A low-carbon fuel standard (LCFS) is a regulation that reduces the carbon intensity of transportation fuels as compared to regular petroleum fuels like gasoline and diesel. 

In comparison to traditional alternatives, natural gas and propane are low-carbon fuels. Compared to gasoline and diesel, both have a lower emission factor. This implies that when a specific amount of natural gas or propane is used, it emits less CO2 than when the same amount of gasoline or diesel is burned. When carbon-rich fuels are burnt, they produce a greater amount of CO2. Methane makes up the majority of natural gas. A single carbon atom makes up one molecule of methane. Methane has a lower carbon-to-energy concentration than other fossil fuels as a result.

The major goal of a low-carbon fuel standard is to minimize carbon dioxide emissions from cars powered by various types of internal combustion engines. This also considers the complete life cycle to reduce transportation’s carbon footprint.

 

Author

  • The author has done a master's in Environmental science and is currently working as chief Environmental Advisor with New Delhi State Government.

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