Petroleum - most commonly referred to as oil - is the main source of energy for the planet. It's a finite resource, and as a result of its becoming scarce, oil has become a precious commodity that is the source of much competition among nations. In the 21st century the world is frantically searching for alternative sources of energy other than oil and can perhaps turn to either biomass or magnesium as a possible substitute. Biomass is one of the oldest forms of energy and has been used ever since the invention of fire, while the energy potential of magnesium has only recently been discovered. But with some ingenuity and new technologies both of these forms of energy may be a successful alternative to petroleum.
Biomass as a fuel source can be utilized from the combustion of organic material such as "wood products, dried vegetation, crop residues, and aquatic plants" (Biomass Energy"). As plants can be re-grown biomass is a renewable form of energy which comes from the sun and, through the process of photosynthesis, is converted into "complex compounds composed of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen," called carbohydrates" (How Biomass Energy Works"). The easiest way to generate energy through biomass is to burn it. From the earliest times mankind has burned wood and other biomass fuels in order to make heat. The heat from burning wood can be used for a number of processes from heating water to smelting ore. The most common use of biomass for transportation was the use of wood to fire steam engines which could power anything from trains to ships. More recently, "biomass fired steam power has been used to generate electricity [which] can have numerous environmental and air-quality advantages over burning fossil fuels" (How Biomass Energy Works"). But biomass has other uses than just the generation of electricity, it can also be converted into liquid form and used as a fuel for automobiles.