Thursday, December 6, 2007

Pros and Cons of using Ethanol as Vehicle Fuels

Ethanol is a renewable transportation fuel, primarily made from starch crops, such as corn. It is also made from sugar beets and cane, or cellulosic materials such as fast-growing trees and grasses.

Ethanol is a clear, colorless, flammable oxygenated hydrocarbon, with the chemical formula C2 H5 OH. Recent development in the world of science has proved ethanol far more efficient with listed benefits. Ethanol fuel is more energy-efficient than some experts had realized and researchers say that it’s time to start developing it as an alternative to fossil fuels. Ethanol is made by fermenting and then distilling starch and sugar crops -- maize, sorghum, potatoes, wheat, sugar-cane, even cornstalks, fruit and vegetable waste. Its simple production scale has impressed the world -- convincing auto manufacturers to develop ethanol fuel friendly vehicles.

Ethanol has unlimited benefits, which includes its ability to be renewed and its simple production process including plants. It also provides high octane at a low cost as an alternative to harmful fuel additives, and it also doesn’t increase greenhouse effect. Ethanol blends radically and reduces emanation of hydrocarbons, a major contributor to the depletion of the ozone layer.

In addition to all this, ethanol has also impressed the auto world by substituting lead as an octane enhancer in gasoline. Adopting ethanol as a fuel instead of regular gasoline has proved to be a very cheap alternative.

Brazil is one of the largest consumers of ethanol fuel. Brazilians have already seen the benefits of sugarcane fuel—not only is it cleaner-burning, but since it is produced within the country, it is half the price of imported gasoline. Ethanol production is a new industry that creates jobs in rural areas where employment opportunities are strongly needed. Also, the carbon dioxide released when ethanol is burned is balanced by the carbon dioxide captured when the crops are grown to make ethanol. Therefore, it reduces greenhouse gas emission in many ways. If ethanol-based energy itself came from non-fossil sources, the use of ethanol as a fuel would add less greenhouse gas.

Today’s cars are built to be compatible with ethanol-blended fuels. Automobiles give better mileage and show more efficient results. Ethanol generates 35% more energy than it takes to produce, which proves that ethanol has a positive net energy balance. There is increasing agreement on the fact that ethanol fuel may serve a mass of goals that are collectively desirable.

However, it is totally unfair to consider only one side of the picture and to ignore disadvantages of usage of ethanol as a fuel. Even though ethanol has a positive net energy balances, it is also invariably more expensive to produce than gasoline. Ethanol has known to cause depreciation to certain parts of automobile -- rubber parts in particular. Some experts view that making ethanol using current technology is costly and contributes to pollution and greenhouse gases. Another controversy surrounding ethanol is its positive net energy balance. Many researchers still debate the argument, but according to the US Department of Energy, the energy output from ethanol is almost 25% higher than what is put into making it. Another issue which is thoroughly debated is the production of corn which causes more soil erosion than any other single crop grown.

However, despite all these arguments, the most feasible conclusion appears to be that in increasing the development and production of renewable fuels such as ethanol, this will help ensure national and economic security and gas price stability. One must not leave this issue in the battlefield of science; we must realize the importance of the environment and energy conservation on our own and contribute by making the wise choice.

1 comment:

wheelsandrubber said...

Very informal. I didn't know that there was that many negatives with ethanol.