by Heather Davis and Alia Johnson; Farnsley Middle School (Louisville, KY)
A discovery of a new gene could make biofuels more efficient, for not just your car but the environment too.
Biofuels are better for the environment than regular gasoline. Biofuels can help clean the air by decreasing the use of fossil fuels burned into the air, says biofuels.org.uk. They also release fewer air pollutants, and they reduce the release of greenhouse gases by about 65%. They don’t just help the air; they help with global warming.
Biofuels are fuels derived directly from living matter. Biofuel becomes ethanol by fermentation. It uses many plants to make it, but switch grass seems to be the best option, according to ScientificAmerican.com. Switch grass is a perennial plant that comes back every year on its own and we won’t have to use corn, which is a food source. Also switch grass doesn’t take up much land from farmers, so they can still grow food for us. Biofuels are better than gasoline because they are renewable verses gasoline, which comes from fossil fuels, not renewable, and will run out n the future.
Some experts debate that biofuels have diverted resources, such as food, away from us. Biofuels have become a target for critics, such as David Tilman from the University of Minnesota. He blames biofuels for increased food prices and food hunger, because biofuels use plants such as corn and soybeans. David Pimental of Cornell University states that making biofuel from corn needs about 29% more energy than it creates after being burned.
According to a Aug.15, 2013 Discovery magazine article, a team from the University of Dundee, UK, James Hutton Institute, Scotland, and University of Wisconsin, discovered a new gene that produces a previously unknown enzyme. The gene produces caffeoyl shikimate esterase (CSE), which is an enzyme that is important in forming lignin. Lignin is the substance that gives plants their structure and sturdiness. However, lignin also slows down the breaking down of the plant to make it available for biofuel. Previously, it would take high heat and harsh chemicals to release the fuel. But scientists at VIB/Ghent in Belgium grew arabidopsis plants—a small weed that belongs to the mustard family—that had the gene removed. Without the gene and enzyme inside of the plant, the lignin was reduced by 36%. he team said that the removal of CSE may lead to cheaper biofuels, because the walls of the plants were more digestible.
Heather Davis and Alia Johnson
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