One of the advantages of biomass fuel is that it is often a by-product, residue or waste-product of other processes, such as farming, animal husbandry and forestry. In theory this means there is no competition between fuel and food production, although this is not always the case.
There are also agricultural products specifically being grown for biofuel production. These include corn, and soybeans and to some extent willow and switchgrass on a pre-commercial research level, primarily in the United States; rapeseed, wheat, sugar beet, and willow primarily in Europe; sugarcane in Brazil; palm oil and miscanthus in Southeast Asia; sorghum and cassava in China; and jatropha in India. Hemp has also been proven to work as a biofuel.
Biodegradable outputs from industry, agriculture, forestry and households can be used for biofuel production, using e.g. anaerobic digestion to produce biogas, gasification to produce syngas or by direct combustion. Examples of biodegradable wastes include straw, timber, manure, rice husks, sewage, and food waste. The use of biomass fuels can therefore contribute to waste management as well as fuel security and help to prevent or slow down climate change, although alone they are not a comprehensive solution to these problems.
Biomass can be converted to other usable forms of energy like methane gas or transportation fuels like ethanol and biodiesel. Rotting garbage, and agricultural and human waste, all release methane gas—also called “landfill gas” or “biogas“. Crops, such as corn and sugar cane, can be fermented to produce the transportation fuel, ethanol. Biodiesel, another transportation fuel, can be produced from left-over food products like vegetable oils and animal fats. Also, Biomass to liquids (BTLs) and cellulosic ethanol are possible products.