How different would the U.S. be if it were not energy dependent upon the Middle Eastern nations? It is estimated that the United States used over “18.6 million barrels per day (MMbd) of petroleum products during 2012”. (“How dependent are we on foreign oil?”) The U.S.’s dependence on oil has caused major difficulties regarding its military and economic status.
However, biochemists in the U.S. have discovered new ways to decrease the U.S.’s dependence on foreign oil. By fermenting and distilling the sugars of corn, biochemists can create an organic compound called bioethanol (or denatured ethanol) that, when mixed with conventional gasoline, can be able to operate cars. Environmentalists have stated that ethanol may be more detrimental to the atmosphere than traditional gasoline. In addition, carmakers have noted that the use of ethanol may cause problems in cars’ engines. Does the benefit of America being energy dependent outweigh the speculated detrimental consequences of using ethanol?
Ethanol is usually combined with traditional gasoline to create “gasohol” or gasoline and alcohol. “In fact, one-third of gasoline sold in the US is mixed with ethanol.” (Giametta) Adding ethanol lowers carbon dioxide emissions, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Carbon emissions occur when the fuel combustion of the car is not fully completed. An incomplete combustion may yield carbon, carbon monoxide, and other chemicals. Ethanol is thirty percent oxygen. Adding oxygen yields a more complete fuel combustion; therefore, it would lower the amount of carbon emissions. There are two types of ethanol gas that can operate regular, unmodified cars: E10 and E15. E10 has a concentration of ninety percent gasoline and ten percent ethanol, while E15 has a concentration of eighty-five percent gasoline and fifteen percent ethanol. However, there are specially modified cars, called Flexible Fuel Vehicles or FFVs, that can operate with even greater concentrations of ethanol. Usually, FFVs operate on a fuel called E85, which has a concentration of eighty-five percent ethanol and fifteen percent gasoline. FFVs suffer no performance loss when operating with E85 compared when operating with gasoline. If the U.S. modifies all vehicles to operate on ethanol, the U.S. would not have to depend on crisis-stricken Middle Eastern countries to supply our fuel needs. In addition to making the U.S. an energy-independent nation, it is a boon for agricultural farmers. Forty percent of corn grown in the U.S. goes towards ethanol production. As the demand for corn increases, the supply of the corn will have to match and/or exceed the demand. The need for corn would ensure agricultural farmers that they will have a job in the near future. Even though ethanol seems to be a great alternative biofuel, many environmentalists and automakers beg to differ.
Environmentalists believe that ethanol may actually emit twice the greenhouse gases that traditional gas would do alone. Granted,...