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Where is biomass energy found?

Today fossil fuels have largely replaced biomass as the major source of energy in industrialized countries, but biomass still remains an important energy source, supplying about 10 per cent of the world's energy needs. Biomass is especially important as an energy source to developing countries that are not heavily industrialized or do not have abundant supplies of fossil fuels.

Throughout the world biomass sources are used for heating (such as wood stoves in homes and for process heat in industries) and cooking (especially in many developing countries). But larger scale use of biomass to generate electricity or to fuel vehicles is a more recent development.

Developing countries are also considered important markets for expansion of biomass power, because of their rapid economic growth, increasing demand for electricity and their significant amounts of agricultural and forestry residues.

According to the International Energy Agency, biomass power will produce about 9.6 per cent of the world's total electricity by 2030.

Since the first oil shock of the early 1970s, there has been a steady increase in the global use of fuels made from biomass.

The US currently leads the world in ethanol production and use, followed by Brazil together they account for 89 per cent of the world's production. In 2010, the US produced 49.3 billion litres of ethanol. In Brazil, all vehicle fuels sold contain ethanol, and more than four million cars run on 100 per cent fuel ethanol produced from sugar cane. The rest of the country's vehicle fleet uses ethanol-blended gasoline.

Since 1980, Sweden has cut crude oil consumption in half through ethanol production. India is piloting several programs to promote ethanol-blended gasoline. And in the United States, biomass is seen as an important option in reducing air emissions and helping the country to reduce dependence on imported oil.

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