Biogas: Nature’s Natural Way To Combat Climate Change
Is biogas nature’s way of showing us how to battle climate change?
Over the last couple of months, we have witnessed major natural disasters that reflect a drastic change in our climate. On the 4th of August, the US government had to declare a national disaster in Northern California on account of the massive wildfires burning there. 8 civilians and 6 firefighters lost their lives in the blaze. These fires follow a “global heat wave” of searing, record-setting heat as well as exceptional drought.
On the other hand, in the East, the Indian state of Kerala saw the worst flooding in over a century. More than 350 people lost their lives and there was widespread damage and destruction of thousands of homes. The cause of the floods was excessive rainfall during the monsoon. Some believe that the floods caused more damage because of deforestation. These events are enough to tell us that our climate is changing, at a dangerous pace.
According to NASA, the planet’s average surface temperature rose by about 1.62 degrees Fahrenheit since the 19th century. This change is mainly caused due to increased carbon dioxide and harmful emissions into the atmosphere. The global sea level also rose 8 inches in the last hundred years but the rate of rising sea levels in the last two decades is nearly double.
It is essential that we take the necessary steps to cut down our carbon emissions and switch to more eco-friendly fuel sources. If natural disasters are nature’s way of highlighting a problem we can turn to nature itself to find a solution. And it seems that nature has given us a solution: Biofuel, a fuel generated from organic matter or waste.
Nature’s most efficient biofuel!
Biogas is a type of biofuel that is produced by the breakdown of organic matter in the absence of oxygen. When organic matter, such as food or animal waste, decomposes in an anaerobic environment i.e. an environment without oxygen, it releases a blend of gases. Methane and carbon dioxide are the main gases released during this process. After we filter biogas the resulting mixture acts as a fuel to generate energy. We can use it as an energy source for cooking, lighting, heating etc.
What are the uses of biogas?
- Vehicular Use: An environmentally attractive alternative to other fuels. The sound generated by methane engines is normally lower than the sound generated by diesel engines. Even the exhaust emissions from biogas powered engines are lower than diesel engines.
- Cooking: Can be an efficient fuel for cooking because it undergoes complete combustion. Cooking stoves fuelled that use biogas significantly alleviate health and environmental problems. Biogas cooking can also improve rural livelihoods and agriculture. The by-products during the production of biogas, such as slurry is a valuable fertilizer to boost agricultural productivity.
- Generating heat and power: Is the ideal fuel for the generation of electric power. The most common technology for power generation is internal combustion. Engines are available in sizes from a few kilowatts up to several megawatts.
Benefits of Biogas
The most important benefit is that it is renewable. By this we mean that as long as the sun is shining and organic waste is available, we can always produce biogas. Biogas is an environmentally-friendly source of energy because it helps overcome two major environmental problems simultaneously:
- The global waste epidemic that releases dangerous levels of methane gas
- Our excessive reliance on fossil fuels to meet the global energy demand
It utilizes nature’s effective tendency to recycle waste substances into productive resources. Biogas generation requires waste materials. To create it we can use waste material that would otherwise pollute landfills. It also prevents the use of toxic chemicals in sewage treatment plants and saves money, energy, and material by treating waste on-site. Moreover, biogas usage does not require fossil fuel extraction to produce energy.
Biogas has close to zero net greenhouse emissions. This is because the amount of CO₂ that is released into the atmosphere when we burn biogas is the same as the amount that is drawn from the atmosphere when the organic matter used to produce biogas was first grown.
Nature’s fury compels us to sit up and take notice of the environmental problems we face. But if we look closely nature herself will give us a solution to those problems. And biogas is one of those solutions we can adopt today!