Humans are dependent on plants

Topics: Deforestation

Plants are remarkable in their ability to be useful in multiple ways. Consider the food chain in our ecosystem where plants constitute the major group of consumed organisms. Humans are dependent on plants using them for their needs such as nutrition, domiciles, and transportation. The demand of plants has caused some adversities like deforestation resulting in an increase in carbon emissions and climate change. Currently, human population is the its greatest size in time and plants are being removed for urbanization for human development.

An effort to manage the need of plants is with the use of natural resources and renewable energy such as alternative fuel options.

Fuel production is generational where the first generation of fuel was made of sugarcane, the second of forest residues, and the third proposed to be microalgae due to its renewability (Costa, 2011). Vehicle emissions are a common cited reason for increased atmospheric carbon. In North America cars use ethanol gasoline which is a chemical mixture of corn and fossil fuels.

Collectively, cars and trucks account for nearly one-fifth of all US emissions, emitting around 24 pounds of carbon dioxide and other global-warming gases per one gallon of gasoline; more than 19 pounds per gallon comes directly from car exhaust (, 2018). A proposed solution to decrease automobile emissions is to use a fossil fuel alternative such as Biofuel. The name biofuel defines what the fuel is: a fuel made from biological sources. Arguably, fossil fuels are biological, but they are not modern and are derived primarily from ecological resources from the earth which contribute to deforestation appending in global damage.

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In 2007 congress passed a law called the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) which mandated: ‘The Renewable Fuel Standard, or RFS, use of 36 billion gallons of biofuels by 2022, of which 15 billion gallons can come from corn-based ethanol and 21 billion must come from advanced biofuels – including 16 billion from cellulosic biofuels and 1 billion from biomass-based diesel (Mallory, et. al, 2011).’ As a result of EISA, corn became a dependent in the fuel industry as petroleum producers continued to transition to meet the 2022 deadline of the law relying heavily on only corn.

However, corn biomass is not an ideal solution for biofuel. Corn is an agricultural crop that directly competes with other resources essential for other agricultural needs such as food. Nearly one-third of all U.S. cropland is used for corn, and of that third- a third is used for animal feed, and another third is grown for ethanol (O. Pisani.,, 2017). Human population and urbanization prevent a problem in the lack of land resources needed to properly support the massive need of both corn and other crop plants, making the abundant use of corn competitive with long term negative effects. The reliance on corn alone is unstable long term and not practical if a genuine effort to address climate change is executed. Biofuel fuel alternatives increase the security of natural resources protecting the earth. Additionally, the process to obtain petroleum is invasive to the earth.

Petroleum is made from crude oil, which is an unstable and highly combustible naturally occurring oil found in the earth. Crude oil is an environmental risk when refined, as it becomes corrosive and toxic to almost all life in the case of a spill. Pipelines are used to transport petroleum which stretch across oceans and through land similarly as a type of an invasive species in most environments. To say that oil pipelines are harmonious to land is false, and is a statement used to soften pipelines that are built in unsupported land. Spills from oil pipelines are the most common of any liquid substance in North America causing ecosystem devastation. A spill of microalgae would surely cause some environmental impacts, but far less compared to the ones seen in petroleum spills.

A sharable characteristic between petroleum products and microalgae is their similar anatomy of lipids. Microalgae has become popular for manufacturing in several realms of research as some scientists suggests the lipid profile of the plant can be utilized for renewable resources. Crude oil It is believed to be of microalgal origin, with diatoms being especially likely candidates, their attributes have significant production of triacylglycerols also found in fuel (Ramachandra,, 2009). Not surprisingly, the similar characteristics of microalgae has become a favored plant as a gasoline alternative. Several species have biomass production rates that can surpass those of terrestrial plants, and many eukaryotic microalgae can store significant amounts of energy-rich compounds, such as triacylglycerol (TAG) and starch, that can be utilized to produce several distinct biofuels, including biodiesel and ethanol (Dismukes, et. al, 2008). Just like corn, microalgae are photosynthetic and able to synthesize starch from glucose by using carbon dioxide and water; consisting of several carbon chains needed to produce ethanol. Biofuels that can sequester carbon or that have a negative or zero carbon balance over the entire production life cycle should be given high priority; corn-based ethanol is the worst among the alternatives that are available at present, although this is the biofuel used the most in commercial production in the United States (Groom, Martha, et al. 2008).

Most species of algae grow on water sources decreasing terrestrial predators and lessening impact on soil erosion. Some may argue that algae are dangerous to water sources and contributes to a lack of aquatic life, however algae farms can recycle water that is inside designated growth pools. Early attempts at biofuel production have been made before, but none utilized the recyclable nature of microalgae farming. Furthermore, microalgae are diverse organisms that can live in multiple ecosystems, so farms would not be contained to one place, rather they could be set up in most countries if they have the resources necessary to sustain them. Successful utilization of water for farming microalgae is a popular argument against using it as a biofuel.

Some say, too much water is required resulting in inefficient water usage which would lack the renewable goal of microalgae. However, water sources required for growth can be a variety of sources depending on the species, such as saltwater, freshwater and even wastewater. Ocean cultivation systems are currently being experimented to test the ability to grow algae far offshore as an effort to conserve land. Some scientist even considered changing the genetic composition of one species of algae Acutodesmus dimorphus to produce more lipids and be high light tolerant to mitigate the effects of the sun directly onto ocean water. In 2017, trials approved by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) were performed for the cultivation of the genetically engineered freshwater microalga Acutodesmus dimorphus in outdoor open-pond bioreactors, which demonstrated that the genetically modified microalga did not outcompete the native algal population (Szyjka, S., 2017). The attempt of comparing a genetically modified algae against a native one, confirmed that the modifications would not be usable for future generations, however a delightful surprise concluded that over time the algae did become more resilient in its ability to be in direct sunlight most of the day. Still, wastewater would be the best option for cultivation. Microalgae are effective at consuming both nutrients and carbon from wastewater, nitrogen and phosphorus can be almost completely removed by algae in suspension or in immobilized form; In addition, daytime photosynthesis provides aeration and maintains high dissolved oxygen in wastewater allowing for effective biological oxygen demand (Ruiz-Marin, 2010). Essentially, addressing stress factors in microalgae and responding promptly will aid in proliferation and resilience of the species.

In conclusion, microalgae are significant contenders for consideration in biofuel. The species is diverse, adaptive, and renewable during a time where tools and technology are present to utilize the species. Corn is not reliable over time, and neither is a dependency on foreign oil or fossil fuels. Swift and firm action must be taken to address climate change for all life on earth. One such change, is the introduction of biofuels which would address carbon emissions.

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Humans are dependent on plants. (2022, May 25). Retrieved from

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