The European Union (EU) considers both biofuels and hydrogen as viable sources of energy to replace fossil fuels. Sobrino et al. (2010) examined, from an economic perspective, the advantages and disadvantages of replacing fossil fuels with biofuels or hydrogen in European vehicles. Although each alternative source of energy has different reasons for being a plausible fuel replacement, the authors found more reasons for hydrogen to be the more environmentally friendly and economically sound choice. — Jenny Ward
Fernando Herna ́ndez Sobrino, Carlos Rodrı ́guez Monroy, Jose ́ Luı ́s Herna ́ndez Pe ́rez. 2010. Critical analysis on hydrogen as an alternative to fossil fuels and biofuels for vehicles in Europe. Renewable and Sustainably Energy Reviews 14, 772–780
The authors first discussed the different reasons for promoting the use of biofuels and hydrogen, which include: reducing the EU’s reliance on foreign oil, constraining the price growth of petroleum, cutting down greenhouse gas emissions, and generating income for the agricultural sector. Current EU policies in place to mandate the use of alternative fuels were also identified. Finally, the benefits and difficulties of using hydrogen to power vehicles was analyzed, and compared to biofuels and fossil fuels.
Sobriono et al. found that the best way to compare the efficiency of alternative fuels to gasoline and gasoil was to study the price per unit of energy on the lower heating value (LHV) of each source. This figure indicated that hydrogen was a more efficicient source of alternative fuel, compared to biofuels and gasoline. And although biofuels may boost the agriculture industry and decrease CO2 emissions form cars, their production still requires raw materials to be imported from non-EU nations, consumes energy and releases greenhouse gases, and is not cost effective yet.
Hydrogen, produced by electrolysis of sea water, can be used in internal combustion engines or in fuel cells. This process does require an input of energy, and the authors discovered a wide range of efficiency when using hydrogen as an alternative source of energy. Its use is most cost effective and least environmentally harmful when wind generators and hydraulic or nuclear power plants provide the energy needed for electrolysis.
Finally, the authors identify the policies in the EU such as Directive 2003/30/EC, which calls for %5.75 percent of fuels used for transportation to be biofuels by the end of 2010 (Sobrino et al. 2010). Some of these policies may seem too ambitious because the production of biofuels and hydrogen fuel is much more expensive than current methods for obtaining fossil fuels. Gas prices however, are heavily taxed, and these taxes could be removed from alternative sources of energy, making them not only a better environmental choice, but also a more affordable option.