Monday, January 28, 2013

Next Generation Bio-Fuels, by Sharon Powell


Next Generation Bio Fuels

By Sharon Powell


What are Bio Fuels? Are they things made from our environment?  Or perhaps a plant or animal! If you agree that both plants and fossils can produce energy you are absolutely correct! Although “Fossil Fuels” and “Bio Fuels” are made to produce energy, they are very different in comparison.

Bio Fuels are synthetic resources of energy.  By referring to the term “synthetic,” we simply mean that products are manufactured from other sources verses occurring naturally.  Bio Fuels are man-made resources of energy made from food, crops, grasses, wood, algae, garbage, sewage and manure.


Bio Fuels allow people to heat their homes, drive their car, or simply allow us to remain cool on hot summer days.  Some people might think energy is free, but the fact is in order to produce energy, other sources of energy are required in order to manufacture more.  As the world becomes more technologically advanced the price of energy continues to rise along with the research needed to help find cost effective ways for creating alternative fuels.


The greatest portion of energy consumed today is referred to as “Fossil Fuels,” and comes from plants and animals that died millions of years ago.  Resources were then buried beneath layers of rock and soil.  As time passed, atmospheric conditions and pressure reacted on the remains, creating an abundance of biological cells and gases, which are commonly referred to as “Bio Fuels” and “Fossil Fuels.”  There are three different types of “Fossil Fuels” commonly known as “Petroleum,” “Coal,” and “Natural Gas.”  Fossil fuels must be removed from the earth and can become costly to manufacture over time.  Removing fossil fuels from the ground can also have serious side effects on

the environment.  For instance, for every ton of coal mined today, there are also 25 tons of rock and earth removed during the process.  Other concerns are the chemicals that wash away into the soil, streams, and lakes. Mining these resources can have long-term effects on wild life and those depending upon the resources used for jobs and health issues.


Petroleum and natural Gas come from the ground and must be pumped from wells or land and sea. Mining “petroleum” is found to be the most dangerous to the environment due to the processes used for extracting it from the ground.  There have been a number of oil spills over the last few decades, costing millions of dollars for clean-up efforts and damages to wildlife species and the environment.

Fossil Fuels tend to create more pollution in comparison to bio fuels since “fossil fuels are burned” creating smog and pollutants in the air.  When fossil fuels are burned, they create greenhouse gases, which trap heat into the atmosphere causing the earth’s temperature to rise.  Technology and the hazards involved with fossil fuels have generated much controversy. Over the last few years, scientists have been focusing on alternative fuels, such as “Bio Fuels” as a means for producing ethanol.  “Bio fuels have proven beneficial in many ways, including reducing damages to the environment.  Bio fuels and Ethanol are produced from plants that capture energy from the sun and store it in their tissue as chemicals called “Hydrocarbons.”  “Hydrocarbons” take only a few months to grow inside the plant, where as “fossil fuels” took millions of years.  “Bio Fuels” can be “transformed into liquid fuel” and consumed in much the same way as fossil fuels. Ethanol can be mixed with fossil fuels to conserve and reduce the use of fossil fuels.


Ethanol is made from plants that are high in sugar content.  The sugar ferments and creates a type of alcohol which is referred to as “Ethanol.”  The Ethanol is then mixed with 15% gasoline and 85% ethanol, or a blend commonly referred to as E-85.  Researchers have found that “Bio Fuels help to reduce pollution and about half the amount of “carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and sulfur compounds that cause acid rain. Both forms of energy cause pollution, but Bio Fuels reduce the amount of pollution by nearly 75% of carbon dioxide when compared to diesel fuels.  Other benefits

of “Bio Fuels” are the non-toxic features noted and will easily break-down in the environment if spilled onto the ground. “Bio Fuels” are an excellent source for renewable forms of energy in today’s fast paced world.  Bio fuels are beneficial, but researchers have also noted the downsides with using “Bio Fuels” which play a significant part into the lives of future generations.”


Since “Bio Fuels” are grown strictly from plants, scientists are concerned with the amount of acreage and water required to produce the crops for production. Other concerns stress the hazards known to wildlife, who, are forced from their habitat in search of a new home.  Scientists and large corporations are working together to resolve some very important downsides to “Bio Fuel” production.  Large oil companies and environmental scientists are now focusing much of their research on the production of “Algae” as a major resource for producing “Bio Fuels.”  According to Exxon-Mobil, the benefits of “Algae” production are both sensible and cost effective.  Algae production conserves land use and saves wildlife species. The benefits also have long-term effects as scientists conclude “Bio Fuels” are “Photosynthetic Algae,” which have the potential to change the way future generations use energy resources.  Algae can also be grown using both land and water which are unsuitable for plant and food production. Lastly, “Algae” has the potential to yield greater volumes per single acreage, producing 2000 gallons of fuel per acre.  The use of “Algae” has been found to be cost effective, highly productive and can be grown quickly.


The future of “Bio-Oils from “Photosynthetic Algae” could manufacture a full range of fuels including gasoline, diesel fuels, and jet fuels that also meet the same specifications used in today’s products.  The future of Synthetic Genomics is a scientific breakthrough, in addition to being a second-generation or renewable form of bio fuel.  These forms of energy can have positive effects on the way future generations produce and consume energy.  Go, go green power……S. Powell, 2010






4.) Biofuels, Karen D. Povey, Thomson/Gale, Kidhaven Press, Farmington Hills, MI, 2007.

5.) Bio Fuels, Andrew Solway, M.A., Gareth Stevens Publishing, Pleasantville, NY, 2008.



Carnivorous Carnival

By Sharon Powell  

In order to understand the world of botany in relation to carnivorous plants, it is important to identify the meaning of the word. Carnivorous simply refers to plants that prey on animals for their survival. Carnivorous plants provide a unique balance of nature within the world and quite often help to reduce crop damage for farmers, and maintain a balance within insect populations.

The colorful shapes of the tropical pitcher can be an interesting edition to anyone’s garden. The total number of carnivorous species is somewhere between six to eight hundred different types.  Pitcher species are located in various regions throughout the world all offering a variety of color and size. The natural order of all carnivores is to trap their prey in order to provide a nutritious meat for digesting while supporting nutritional needs.

Carnivorous plants began to grow in greater numbers once the invention of the greenhouse took shape during the Roman Empire. Pitchers, and other exotic plants experienced increased growth during the 16th and 17th Centuries where elite members of society began cultivating the plants within controlled environments. Nurseries and breeding programs developed several plant species for show. Gardeners and anyone with a “green-thumb” would enter botanical contests in an effort to receive special recognition and monentary awards for their selections.


Carnivorous plant life can be found in various parts of the world. Depending upon the climate, many species can be enjoyed within the privacy of your own home or garden. The most important resource to the “Pitcher plant” is its climate and soil needs. Most pitchers require a certain type of soil which is crucial to its survival.  Soil requirements are often limited according to the geographical region. Soils such as, Pumice, Limestone, Lavarack, Perlite, Sand, and Vermiculite, which is commonly used for insulating much of the world’s consumer products and architectural designs make up the foundation of the Pitcher’s root system. Other “Pitcher” species require “Sphagnum Moss” and climates offering high degrees of humidity. Many pitchers are found growing wild within tropical climates, in addition to “mountainous terrains,” “hills,” and “Bogs” located throughout the world. Wild pitcher plants sprout in early spring, and are considered to be “perennial plants,” or, plants that live for many years.

Pictured above is the Nepenthes Northaiana. Although various species offer a variety of shapes and sizes, the “Northiana” is one of the largest species of pitchers and is in danger of becoming extinct. The magnificent plant grows on limestone covered surfaces where cliffs and tropical conditions are favored. The pitcher can reach heights of up to 14 inches and is uniquely colored with a reddish bronze “trap,” and “crimson colored leaf” surrounding its cornucopia shaped mouth. The lower portion of the plant is referred to as the “trap” and contains a thick and almost syrupy fluid where insects and other prey sink to the bottom and drown. The “trap” is also very important to the plants digestive system, and contain large quantities of “acidity and enzymes” which help dissolve prey. Pitchers are also able to re-absorb nutrition from the syrupy fluid allowing them to sustain life when prey becomes scarce. The Northiana feeds upon large insects including crickets, sow bugs, meal worms, and dried insects throughout the year.

Carnivorous plants are unique and very interesting editions to the world of botany. Their existence provides balance of nature within our environment and forestry resources. To learn more about the world of Carnivorous Botany contact your local library or go to………..S. Powell, 2011

1.) Peter D. Amato The Savage Garden, Cultivating Carnivorous Plants, Berkeley CA, Ten Speed Press, 1998.
2.)Densey Clyne, Plants of Prey, Milwaukee, WI, Gareth Sterns Publishing, 1998.
3.) Elaine Pascoe, Carnivorous Plants, Farmington Hills, MI, New York, NY, London, Munich, Detroit, San Francisco, New Haven, Watery E. Maine. Blackbirtch Press, 2005.