What is biofuel?

Qué es el biocombustible


Biofuel is the term used to refer to any type of fuel derived from biomass - recently living organisms or their metabolic waste, such as cow dung.

Biological fuels can replace part of the consumption of traditional fossil fuels (oil, coal), some consider them a renewable energy source with little environmental impact, however the use of transgenic seeds and large amounts of agrochemicals, as well as The expansion of the agricultural frontier in many countries, through the clearing of jungles and native forests, severely questions this theory.
In Argentina and Brazil, large tracts of native forests are being destroyed daily for the planting of soybeans and corn whose destination will be the production of biofuels, as well as food. This contributes to the phenomenon of climate change and soil desertification.

Some experts and environmentalists prefer to call them agrofuels, considering that the prefix "bio" is not appropriate.
The most widely used and developed biofuels are bioethanol and biodiesel.

  • Bioethanol, also called biomass ethanol, is obtained from corn, sorghum, sugar cane or beets. Brazil is the main producer of Bioethanol (45% of world production), the United States represents 44%, China 6%, the European Union 3%, India 1% and other countries the remaining 1%.
  • Biodiesel is made from vegetable oils, which can be already used or unused. In the latter case, raps, canola, soybeans or jatropha are usually used, which are cultivated for this purpose. The main producer of biodiesel in the world is Germany, which concentrates 63% of the production. It is followed by France with 17%, the United States with 10%, Italy with 7% and Austria with 3%.

Social and environmental impact of biofuels

Biofuels produced from oil palm, sugarcane and soybean have serious social and environmental impacts:

  • Its production entails the loss of tropical forests and its richness in biodiversity by requiring the establishment of oil palm, soybean plantations, etc. which are also known as "green deserts", for drying up natural sources of water and wetlands.
  • In other cases, areas for these plantations are won at the expense of areas for food crops: a kind of competition between food production and fuel production has begun.
  • In addition, burning forests to establish plantations releases much more CO2 than can be saved by the use of biofuels that are falsely promoted as "greener".
  • The demand for biofuels promotes monocultures, and therefore greater use of pesticides and herbicides, also contaminating water, damaging human health and contaminating the environment.
  • On the plantations there are terrible working conditions, wages below the legal minimum, temporary, without contracts, and without health insurance or contributions to pensions or vacations; keep labor costs low and increase company profits; union formation is not allowed. Well-being, the promised public services and "employment for all" never arrive.
  • Inequality increases, peasants are deprived of their subsistence, their way of life is disrupted. There is an imminent danger that plantations for biofuel production will overtake those plantations for food production. Some 800 million people around the world are currently hungry.
  • Its use is limited to engines with low performance and low power.
  • Its production is only viable through subsidies, because the costs double those of gasoline or diesel.


In Spain there is a special tax rate for biofuels of zero euros per 1,000 litres. The special rate will be applied exclusively to the volume of biofuel even when it is used mixed with other products.
The following products are considered as biofuels:

  • Ethyl alcohol produced from agricultural products or of plant origin (bioethanol) defined in NC code 2207.20, whether used as such or after chemical modification.
  • Methyl alcohol (biomethanol) defined in CN code 2905.11.00 and obtained from products of agricultural or vegetable origin, whether used as such or after chemical modification.
  •  Vegetable oils defined in CN codes 1507, 1508, 1510, 1511, 1512, 1513, 1514, 1515 and 1518, whether used as such or after chemical modification.
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