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Biofuels Processing Technicians


The sources for renewable energy have existed since early civilization. Wood was among the first biofuels mankind used for heating homes, cooking food, and providing light at night. Vegetable oil is another early renewable material that has been converted into biofuel in the past. In the late 1800s, Rudolf Diesel invented a peanut oil–powered engine, which he shared with the public at the World Exhibition in Paris, France. In the early 1900s, Ford's Model T was powered by biofuel derived from hemp. Fossil fuels, such as petroleum, were in abundance back then, and their efficiency and low cost put biofuels on the back burner.

Interest in alternative energy sources always grows, however, when fuel and energy sources are depleted. For example, during World War II, the Germans tackled a fuel shortage by creating ethanol from potatoes and methanol from wood. In the United States, the fuel shortage in the 1970s revealed how dependent the country had become on the Middle East for oil and how U.S. petroleum production had dropped to a dangerous low. The energy crisis resulted from Middle Eastern countries placing an embargo on exporting petroleum to Western countries, including the United States and the Netherlands, as an expression of their anger at external involvement in Arab-Israeli conflicts. The embargo translated into long lines at the gas stations, high gas prices, and people trading in their large, gas-guzzling cars for smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles.

Awareness has since been raised about the importance of energy conservation and renewable energy sources. People now use mass transit and carpool to cut down on costs and save energy. Today, wood, corn, soy, aquatic plants, and animal waste, among other types of organic materials, are converted into biofuels for powering vehicles and giving heat and electricity to homes and buildings. Funding for biofuels and bioenergy research and development continues to grow, creating more job opportunities for biofuels professionals.

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