Most of the global greenhouse gas emissions caused by humans are released during the combustion of coal, oil and gas. To keep global warming below two degrees, we must inevitably reduce the use of fossil fuels, not least because they will eventually run out.
In future, high energy density liquid fuels will certainly continue to be indispensable. It is therefore important to tap renewable raw material sources and to commercialise these in the short and medium term. While private transport and many other sectors that currently rely on fossil energy are already electrified, or at least will be in the foreseeable future, air and heavy goods traffic continue to depend heavily on liquid fuels. Rolf Henke, a member of the board of the German Aerospace Center, estimates that the first commercial electric planes will be able to take off in ten years at the earliest, and with a maximum of twenty passengers on board. Likewise, electric trucks are only being produced in small series, or by a few manufacturers in medium-sized series. Ten of these trucks are currently undergoing practical tests in Germany.
Various research programs are therefore in the process of developing concepts for so-called biorefineries that make it possible to convert lignocellulosic biomass, such as straw or beechwood, into fuels and chemicals. Lignocellulose is found in the cell wall of woody plants. This type of biomass is already the most commonly used raw material on earth for the production of biofuels, in particular bioethanol. It is also the only sustainable resource, in terms of cost, availability and quantity, that can be converted into renewable raw materials such as chemicals or fuels.