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Ethanol As An Alternative Energy Source

1498 words - 6 pages

Biofuels: Ethanol an Alternative Energy Source

In today's society, when someone wants to go to the movies, work, school, library, or mall, they drive to their destination. The average amount of gasoline consumed per year is about 146 gallons in the U.S. (Biofuels for Transportation, p1). Discoveries of huge petroleum deposits kept gasoline cheap for decades and biofuels were forgotten (Leen, p1). However, with the recent oil prices, along with growing concern of global warming caused by carbon dioxide emissions, biofuel regained popularity (Leen, p1). Ethanol, a renewable fuel made from plants was added to gasoline to increase octane and help the engines burn more efficiently and cleanly (West,p1).

Ethanol or ethyl alcohol (EtOH) is an alternative energy source which produces a fuel with higher octane rating and fewer emissions than unblended gas (West, p1). Some sources used to make ethanol are sugar canes, maize, sorghum, fruit and vegetable waste, barley, wheat, potatoes, molasses, cotton, or any other plant that contains a large amount of sugar. But the leading U.S fuel crop is corn. Corn byproducts allow more fuel to be made from the same amount of corn by breaking down the starches in its cell walls (Benefits, p3). The enzyme Tran 2 increases production of alcohol from corn by 2% to 3% (Benefits, p3).

There are four steps toward making ethanol. First, the feedstock is ground for easier processing, then when the sugar is dissolved from the ground materials, the microbes feed on the sugar producing ethanol and carbon dioxide as byproducts (West, p2). Lastly, the ethanol is purified to achieve the correct concentration (West, p3). This grain alcohol is a colorless and flammable as well as drinkable though toxic. It is an active ingredient in beer and wine.

Whereas, methanol is more poisonous, and can kill people (Addison, p1).
At the start of the 20th century, Henry Ford planned to fuel his Model T's with ethanol (Leen, p2). This widely available fuel used in many vehicles on the road including sedans, minivans, SUVs, pickups and light trucks costs about the same as a gallon of regular gasoline. A gallon of E85, a fuel mix of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline, contains less energy than a gallon of gasoline (Leen, p2). Although ethanol has lower mileage and requires you to fill your tank more often, research proves that it is better for our environment. In fact, Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, all recommend ethanol fuels (Leen, p2). Drivers would need more ethanol to drive the same distance, and ethanol prices are expected to be higher than gasoline prices when and if it is implemented on a national scale. Drivers of ethanol-powered cars may also have to drive further distances to find a specialized gas station, which offers E85 ethanol (Alternative Energy, p1).

One of the advantages of ethanol fuel is its organic origins. In the United States, ethanol is primarily derived from corn. Since corn...

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