The aim of this memo is to examine how well the article “An overview of second generation bio-fuel technologies”, which was published in Bioresource Technology, is written as a technical document. The memo will also analyze how its authors have proved their thesis using scientific methodologies. 


The article, “An overview of second generation bio-fuel technologies” published in Bioresource Technology, is written in a professional manner adhering to all the characteristics of a technical document. The study uses a literature review model in exploring existing knowledge on the production of second generation bio-fuels. The authors, being authoritative figures in the field of bio-fuels both in scholarly aspects and in policy, present their findings in an easy-flowing and student-friendly manner. Nonetheless, the article could have benefited from use of more visuals to explain technical concepts and bring out comparison. 

Journal and Article

The article “An overview of second generation bio-fuel technologies’ was published in Bioresource Technology. The latter is a peer-reviewed scientific journal which is published twice a week by Elsevier. Bioresource Technology has an aim of advancing and disseminating knowledge in the fields related to biomass, bioenergy, bio- transformations, as well as bio-resource system analysis. Its content is thus aimed at students, scientists and scholars interested in the area of bio-resource technologies, as well as policy makers dealing with bio-fuels and related environmental policies. The journal is available both in print and online and can is open for subscription. The editorial board of Biresource Technology is headed by A. Pandey, who is the editor-in-chief. Other editors include C. Larocche and H. Ngo.

The article was written by four authors who specialize in different fields related to bio-fuels. The lead and correspondence author, Ralph E.H. Sims is a professor of sustainable energy at Massey University in New Zealand, where he also heads the Center for Energy Research. He has previously published numerous article and reports that deal with renewable energy heating and cooling, as well as the seminal work, published in 2008 which examines the transition form 1st to 2nd generation bio-fuels. The second author, Warren Mabee is an assistant professor at Canada’s Queen’s University. He has published on issues touching on the interface between policy and technology in the field of renewable energy.

The third author, Jack Saddler earned his degree and PhD in microbiology and biochemistry respectively from the university of Edinburg and Glasgow. He has served in various capacities, including as Dean of Forestry at the University of British Columbia. He has published more than 350 research papers and book chapters that deal with biotechnology and bioenergy. Michael Taylor, a New Zealander and a British citizen was an energy analyst at the International Energy Agency in Paris at the time of the authoring the article. He has researched in various energy-related fields such as energy modeling, as well as the economic analysis of the energy sector issues. He is currently a senior analyst of renewable cost status and outlook at the Germany-based IRENA.



Article’s Main Purpose/Thesis

In this article, the authors’ main purpose is to examine the current state of second generation bio-fuels with respect to level of technological development focusing on bio-ethanol. They evaluate and compare the costs involved in the production of these bio-fuels, and outline the policies needed in order to overcome the challenges of producing bio-ethanol. The authors also determine the future constraints to be considered if full commercialization is to take place. The authors argue that while major technological and envelopment strides continue to be made in the production of second generation bio-fuels, there still remain major challenges in its full commercialization. The article is intended to policy makers in the field of bio-fuel technology as well as other scholars who have interest in the field of second generation bio-fuel production as it presents a brief but comprehensive overview of the current state of the industry. In addition to an abstract that gives the reader a quick glimpse of what the article entails, the conclusion also contains a summary of key messages arising from their study, which enable the reader to identify the main takeaways from the article. 

Own Thesis

The authors, being renowned figures in the field of renewable energy and biotechnology, have approached the subject in readable manner. The content is presented under various subtopics which makes it easier to follow through and to navigate the article. This makes it easier for the reader to integrate the various subtopics with the overall theme. Being more of review article, the authors rely on existing data from relevant industry agencies such as the IEA and oil production corporations such as Shell, as well a previous works by some of the authors in supporting their analysis. The article is based on a report published by the International Energy Agency and which explores the commercialization of first and second generation bio-fuels.

Readability of Article

Characteristics of Technical Writing

According to Markel, technical writing should have a number of characteristics. It should address specific audience/readers, aid readers in solving problems, reflect the organization’s goals and culture, be produced collaboratively, utilize design to increase readability, and comprise of words or images, or even both. The article by Sims et al fulfils these characteristics. It addresses readers who are interested in the field of bio-fuels as well as policy and decision-makers in the energy sector. It uses language that is suitable for scholars, students, as well as policy-making bodies. The article also helps readers solve the problem arising from the shortcomings of the first-generation bio-fuels by proposing the commercialization of second-generation bio-fuels. Moreover, it also addresses the challenges that may be encountered in the production of the second generation bio-fuels by analyzing the related costs and advises on the most economic method. 

The article also furthers the culture of the Bioresource Technology journal by helping in the advancement and dissemination of scientific knowledge regarding bio-fuel production. More importantly, the article also exemplifies collaboration as a feature of a technical document because it produced through cooperation of various scholars. As noted earlier, each of the four scholars who collaborated on the study has an interest in the field of bio-fuel and their combined expertise helped in coming up with such an informative work. Moreover, the study is based on a report published earlier by the IEA, the international body charged with the management of energy related issues and policies. The document also contains words and images. While most of the content consists of words, there are three tables and a graph that simplify key concepts, figures, and data to make them easier for the ready to understand as seen in pgs 1571, 1571, and 1573 

Measures of Excellence

Markel argues that for a technical document to b regarded as excellent, it has to exhibit the following characteristics: honesty, clarity, accuracy, comprehensiveness, accessibility, conciseness, professional appearance, and correctness. The article demonstrates honesty by quoting various sources, using citations in order to give credit to the material from external sources and through use of figures. Where estimates are made, the authors state that such figures and data are approximations and can be subject to change. The document also exudes clarity to ensure it conveys a single meaning that can be easily understood by the reader. Although it tackles a technical subject, the authors avoid technical jargon and ambiguous words in order to avoid confounding the reader. Moreover, the authors get their facts right by being accurate. Where projections are made, they are identified as such, hence the reader is aware that such figures are estimates and subject to change. 

In addition, the document exemplifies comprehensiveness. In their introduction Sims et al outline the purpose of their document. Each of the elements is tackled under a spate subheading. Moreover, in order to crosscheck whether all information has been provided, the concluding section consist a list of key messages that the reader should glean from the document. The article is also concise, consisting of only ten pages excluding the references. It has a professional appearance of a peer-reviewed article. It begins with an abstract, following by the introduction and then delves into the aim of the study. It has a conclusion, an acknowledgement section, as well as a references section. Moreover, the document exhibits high level of correctness, by adhering to conventions of grammar, punctuation, writing mechanics of a technical article, and spelling. 

Article’s Scientific Validity

Scientific Method/Design Process

The study is a review article that aims at examining the state of the current second-generation bio-fuels industry. The research is based on a report published by the IEA and written by the same authors. The authors thus use comprehensive literature review to examine the state of the second generation of bio-fuels from production to commercialization and the challenges involved. They start by examining the challenge of the first generation bio-fuels and why such concerns should lead to the adoption of second generation bio-fuels. 

Hypothesis/Design Model

The authors hypothesize that while the technology for the production of second generation bio-fuels has been extant, the commercialization of these renewable energies faces technical and economic challenges that need to be addressed. By reviewing existing literature on the development of the second generation bio-fuels, the authors provide comprehensive data on the state of the industry, with particular emphasis on bio-ethanol production. The authors use charts, tables and figures to show the possibility of the commercialization of second generation bio-fuels and their benefits. For instance, in the graph below, the authors argue that production of 2nd generation of bio-fuels remain a risk venture due to unstable oil prices, especially with low fuel prices of petroleum-based sources. 

Conclusion and Recommendation

The article provides insightful and informative content on any student undertaking a course in bio-fuels or even renewable energy. It tackles the subject in student-friendly manner which makes it easy to be used as a reference document for research on second-generation bio-fuels. In addition, it contains a comprehensive list of references that can help the student of bio-resources technology to explore various aspects of bio-fuels. While the authors have made a great attempt in maintaining readability, the article could be improved by including more visuals such as graphs and tables in order to simplify difficult concepts. For instance, in order to help the student majoring in bio-fuels or renewable energy, it could have started with a short but comprehensive overview of the first generation of bio-fuels, and then compare the two categories and indicate the benefits of each. 


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