Ethanol as Alternative Fuel

As people look for alternative fuels, one of the considerations is ethanol. There are many types of bio-fuels available(that is, fuels that don't rely on limited natural resources), and ethanol is one of the most likely to turn into mainstream fuel. Hydrogen may be one of the best sources because of how much there is, but it is still a long way off before making it a practical alternative. Electricity is useful to a limited degree, and so far it's only useful in conjunction with other types of fuel. But ethanol seems to be the intermediate step between truly cheap and available fuels like hydrogen and electricity and our current fossil fuel usage.

The reason why ethanol is considered to be an excellent alternative for fossil fuels is because it can be derived from sugar or starch in crops of grain and sugarcane. Other fuels produced from crops include hemp, corn, potatoes, sunflowers, seaweed, rice, sewage, and even cheese whey. Unfortunately, at this point, ethanol is not getting the attention it deserves because of the perception that it will require a lot of landmass in order to produce enough crops to fuel our vehicles.

What Eco-scientists need to do is stop considering the growth of crops strictly for the production of ethanol and rather considers how the waste of those crops (along with the waste of landfills) can help create ethanol. Ethanol is the same kind of alcohol that you drink when you enjoy alcoholic beverages. But it's not as easy as simply dumping that bottle of vodka into your gas tank. And besides, it wouldn't be any cheaper than gas is! Ethanol burns more cleanly than other kinds of fuels and its combustion produces no extra carbon dioxide. (It does produce some, but not any more than it would produce by simply decomposing) and water is also a by-product of ethanol combustion.

Another problem that is faced with the transfer of turning current cars into ethanol burning cars is that ethanol can destroy some rubber or plastic currently used in the fuel dispersal system in many cars. And, because ethanol burns hotter, it requires some changes to the spark plug system in cars. And in colder climates, an additional system is required to help the fuel burn in the cold. Unlike Methanol, Ethanol is non-toxic (in that prolonged exposure will not cause brain damage).

So if ethanol is so benificial, why are we not using it? One of the problems that ethanol is facing is the belief that it costs more energy to produce than it does to produce the same amount of fossil-fuel-based fuels. This is a controversial topic with many sides weighing in with their opinions. But at the end of the day, you need to know that the answer is not clear-cut enough for one side to achieve a decisive win.

On top of that is the ramp-up cost of reducing the current fossil fuel production, completely changing over cars and gas stations and vehicle manufacturing plants, and fuel processing plants; the costs are enormous. Over time it may be viable, but the benefit of ethanol over fossil fuels is not perceived by enough people yet to bring it to action. Copyright (c) 2008 Mervyn Rees.

Mervyn Rees - The author of, 'The Secrets of Biodiesel'. An active young 72 year old with a lifetime of experience to share, being a Fellow of the Institute Motoring Industry, built his own Dragonfly Roadsters before retiring as a Motor Vehicle Manufacturer. Having tried retiring twice and given up, he has now created an additional website to share his many interests with other likeminded people

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