Biofuels - a solution or a problem?

The concern over greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and climate change is steadily growing as the world consumes more of the Earth’s fossil carbon reserves.

Transport is responsible for 23% of the world’s energy-related CO2 emissions and for 13% of all greenhouse gas emissions. Biofuels have been suggested as an important solution to the transport sector’s greenhouse gas emissions, but the production of biofuels introduces ethical and technical issues: Biofuel production may displace food production and lead to increased staple food prices, plantations for growing biofuel raw material may lead to deforestation and loss of biodiversity, and in some cases the production of biofuels has low or even a negative impact on CO2 emissions. Also, market acceptance and compatibility with existing vehicle engines are issues to be addressed.

On the other hand, domestically produced biofuel may be a solution for countries that rely heavily on imported fuels, but where the cost of importing transport fuels is a serious strain on the country’s economy. Biofuels can be produced in small-scale production units, and some biofuel manufacturing technology can be implemented even in societies with less access to a technically skilled labor force. They can thus be an important tool for societal development in developing countries.

 

Relevant competence

The production and utilization of biofuels is a multifaceted challenge, and it introduces problems beyond the scope of natural science and engineering, both on the environmental level, the political level and the ethical level.

Due to the complex scope of the topic, the village should be well suited for students with a wide range of backgrounds. We are looking for students with background and competence in chemical and biotechnological engineering, biology and environmental science, engine engineering, resource management, social sciences, or ethics.

 

About the village

The production and utilization of biofuels raises several important questions, like:

  • Can we improve
        o    Biomass production and harvesting?
        o    Biofuel processing by new technologies?
  • Can we find new biomass raw materials that don't displace food production?
  • Can we make new business from biomass?
  • Is biogas a good alternate fuel? What about processing and distribution?
  • Provided that biofuel is a solution to a problem, what political regulations would be needed to make biofuel production profitable with today's moderate petroleum prices?
  • How about the ethical issues around biofuels and food?
  • How about the political issues, subsidies and societal acceptance of new fuels?
Fri, 29 Sep 2017 14:23:03 +0200

Course code: TKP4850
Village: Biofuels - a solution or a problem?
Type: Semester-based
Language: English
Village supervisor: Størker Moe
Contact information: storker.moe@ntnu.no
Semester: Spring 2018

Important information about EiT:

  • The focus on teamwork skills and group processes is the unique feature of Experts in Teamwork (EiT).
  • EiT's teaching methods depend on the contribution and presence of every participant throughout the semester. For this reason, attendance is compulsory on every village day.
  • In contrast to many courses, the first few days are especially important in EiT. During this period, the team members get to know each other and discuss what each individual can contribute. You will also draw up the compulsory cooperation agreement and start preparing a shared research question.
  • For additional information about Experts in Teamwork, see the page for students.