Alternative Energy Source: Biomass
With the world facing the dual crises of peak oil and global warming alternative energy sources have received a lot of attention recently. At one time it seemed that biomass was a leading contender to replace oil but this is starting to seem less likely. There are certainly still people who support the idea but it is becoming increasingly clear that there are a lot of practical problems that will need to be overcome if we are going to use biomass as a fuel source. It is certainly possible that somebody will come up with solutions to these problems but for now it looks like the future of alternative energy lies in other directions.
There was a time when biomass power was considered the front runner to replace oil as our major fuel source but this opinion has largely changed. While there are certainly still people who think that it can be a source of energy it is becoming increasingly clear that overcoming the problems with biomass are not going to be easy. One of the problems biomass has faced from the beginning and that still continues to plague it is that it takes more fuel to grow the crops and turn them into fuel than the amount of energy you get out of the fuel that you produce. That means that as it currently stands it far from being a way to decrease our dependence on oil it actually increases our dependence.
The biggest problem with biomass is that it takes food out of people's mouths to turn it into food. In the developed countries this results in a rise in the price of food but in much of the world there are people who can't get enough to eat as it is. With a shortage of food turning it into fuel is an absurd idea. The real danger is that the crops that go into making biomass will become cash crops and will make the problems of the third world nations even worse. A large part of their problems have been caused by focusing too much on cash crops and not enough on food supplies. If crops become a source of energy the problem is going to get much worse.
There is also the issue of the effects that growing all of these crops is going to have on the soil. In order to use crops as fuel we are going to need to massively increase the amount that we grow. This poses risks for things like soil erosion and deforestation as more and more land gets put into agricultural production. Although there are benefits to biomass there are so many issues surrounding it as a fuel source that it seems like a dead end. This might change in the future as new technology becomes available but for now there are likely better options available.