Gas stations carry various types of gas. There is the low-cost type, the reasonably priced type, and the costly type. The costly type is generally pure gasoline that can be pumped into a car. The low-cost type is commonly a mixture of ethanol and gasoline. This ethanol can make up for 10 to 15% of the mixture with gasoline. There are even types of fuel that have a mixture of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline which can only be used in specific flex-fuel vehicles. These ethanol and gasoline blends make fuel cheaper for the consumer market. Ethanol blends also extend the fossil fuel supply that we have on earth.
Safety for Cars Comes First
The question that needs to be answered though is if ethanol is safe to use in vehicles. The answer depends on how much ethanol is used in the blend and if the car was made to handle ethanol blends. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) approved the use of ethanol blends up to 15% in vehicles made after 2001. Older cars made before 2001 won’t do well when being fueled by ethanol blends. These ethanol blends can actually damage engines and rust out fuel lines in cars made before 2001. This is because ethanol is an alcohol that has water molecules attached to its makeup. Over time if the ethanol blend isn’t burned up or if it isn’t stored properly it can become useless and damaging.
Most consumers don’t know what ethanol blends can be used in, which is problematic. Not knowing what ethanol blends can be used in can cause damage to property and products. Ethanol is not safe to use in small engines like lawn mowers and motorcycles. The EPA is trying to change this but has been having issues with informing the public properly on ethanol blends.
Higher Ethanol Blend Percentage Equals Lower Miles per Gallon
Newer model vehicles will have no complications running on ethanol blends up to 10 to 15%. These newer model cars were made to use these blends because of the changes in the fuel market. Once ethanol blends start exceeding 15% is when issues in mileage happen. Ethanol isn’t as powerful as gasoline, so a vehicle can only get so much use out of it compared to pure gasoline. Flex fuel vehicles that can use E85 might be able to fuel up for cheaper but will suffer in traveling distance. This creates a dilemma where a consumer might question the value of higher ethanol blends if they have to fuel up more often.
Ethanol blends are here to stay and that’s a fact. Over the next few decades, more cars will be made to handle higher amounts of ethanol blends. The cost of fuel being cheaper is questionable though due to vehicles needing to fuel up more often. The good news for consumers is that ethanol is eco-friendly and produces fewer greenhouse gases than pure gasoline.
Ethanol is a great fuel product that reduces greenhouse gases and preserves our fossil fuels. The dilemma that comes with creating ethanol is if it’s worth the problems that come with producing it. Ethanol is produced by processing feedstocks like corn and sugar cane. This sounds great because ethanol would create more jobs for farmers and people in rural areas. The issue that appears to be happening is that farmers are converting parts of their land for ethanol production, which use to be used for food production. If farmers are converting most of their land to be used for ethanol, then less food is being produced for the population.
Ethanol Production Affects Food Costs
The risk of having a food crisis is more prevalent than ever as more and more land gets converted for ethanol production. The tradeoff for preserving fossil fuels in exchange for less food doesn’t seem very logical. There’s already a hunger problem in the world and ethanol production could worsen this problem. Less food production would cause a price hike in food cost. Consumers could be spending less on gas but would be making up for that in food costs. Ethanol production would also affect a shortage in animal feed. In order to make up for the shortage of food for animals price hikes in meat would start going up as well.
One crop that doesn’t seem to be having an issue is corn. The United States is the lead producer of corn and produces more than is demanded. Corn also creates a byproduct grain that can be used in animal feed. Since an abundant amount of corn is produced much of it can be used for ethanol production without any kickback. That isn’t the case for many other feedstocks that are produced in other countries. Other countries have had shortages of certain foods and needed to import more to satisfy their consumers.
Better Managing Practices and New Technology
Ethanol can still be a great alternative fuel that is better for the environment and not a concern to food production. Farmers would need to start managing their land better in order to keep a good balance of food and ethanol production. If farmers kept a good balance then there wouldn’t be food shortages or hikes in food pricing. Another solution would be new technology that creates second-generation biofuels. These second-generation biofuels are created by the cellulose of feedstocks and other materials. Second-generation biofuels can be created from waste products of plants and materials such as dead trees. Creating ethanol from waste products would be the best alternative and solution for this food vs fuel debate. Unfortunately, the technology for creating second-generation biofuels isn’t perfect and still needs time to be used correctly.
The production of ethanol isn’t a straight shot best method of fixing the fossil fuel dependency. As ethanol gains popularity, the issues in producing it need to be address and fixed. There are solutions to the issues with producing ethanol. As long as land managing practices and new technologies fall in place ethanol will remain a great biofuel choice.
Farmers need land to grow their crops to be used as food or ethanol. The growing demand for ethanol has caused some farmers and commercial agriculture companies to clear out more land for their crops. Clearing out more land for biofuel production could lead to a deforesting problem that wasn’t foreseen. An increasing demand for biofuel has led some companies to clear out protected forest areas instead of forest waste. The clearing of forest areas for agriculture can cause multiple problems for the earth and species residing in the forests. Too much deforestation could counter the biofuels solution to lower greenhouse emissions.
Forest Areas Are Important Global CO2 Sinks
Right now there isn’t enough data or information to show that the production of biofuels has contributed to problems with deforestation. Although there isn’t enough data to show this information right now it can be predicted by current events. If agriculture companies clear out forest areas and plant saplings elsewhere, those saplings will take too long to balance what was taken away. If crops that produce low CO2 amounts are planted in place of deforested areas, then it doesn’t balance out properly. Lower CO2 amounts will create a problem for plant life on the earth and aid to the climate change.
Producing biofuels also creates an issue with water usage. Farmers and agriculture companies need to water their crops in order to gain a good harvest. This water consumption can cause issues in low water supplies in the surrounding areas. This water consumption can also cause issues for the surrounding wildlife. The weather and area would be a major factor in how much water is used on the farmland. Some people may find that the production of biofuel is too risky and other means of producing energy would be safer. Solar panel technology and Windmills may seem like a better solution for creating energy than biofuels.
Creating Biofuels from Waste Products
Using waste products to produce biofuels would validate its purpose. The technology for using waste products to produce biofuel isn’t perfected yet. If it were perfected and practiced throughout all processes, then biofuel development wouldn’t cause harm to environments. These waste products would include non-edible materials and algae. The cellulose of the waste products could be used to create the biofuels instead of the sugars from crops like corn and sugar cane. This would mean that instead of clearing forests the dead trees from forests could be used to create the biofuels.
If the new technology was perfected and less costly, then biofuels would serve their purpose. The problem of deforestation would come to a halt as well if waste products were used to create biofuels. Less farmland would be needed to create the biofuels since crops wouldn’t be the only means of making biofuels. For now, the production of biofuels could be a problem or a solution to greenhouse gas emissions. If technology advancements continue to unfold, then deforestation won’t be an issue to look out for.
Bioethanol is also known simply as ethanol or ethyl alcohol. Bioethanol is more or less a marketing term due to it being created by an organic process that is more environment-friendly compared to other fuels. It is a type of alcohol that happens to be the same type that is used in alcoholic drinks. Bioethanol cannot be consumed though due to alterations which are made so that it can be used as a fuel. Since it is a type of alcohol it is a volatile and flammable substance that is colorless in its pure state.
Why is it Called Bioethanol?
The main reason for ethanol being called bioethanol is due to it being a renewable source of fuel. Not every way of obtaining ethanol is considered renewable and is instead obtained through a chemical process. Any process of obtaining ethanol in a non-renewable way voids it of being called bioethanol. Bioethanol is only one type of fuel out of many considered to be a biofuel. Biofuel can be a liquid, gas or an unprocessed biomass state. Bioethanol is the most popular use of a liquid biofuel and continues to grow in production over the years.
Bioethanol is simply an alcohol that is a renewable source of fuel extracted through organic processes like many other biofuels. The liquid fuel is easy to burn since alcohol is very flammable just like gasoline. This makes it an ideal product to use in anything that consumes fuel that combusts easily. Vehicles can make the most out of this biofuel and they do widely in the United States. Some fireplaces are actually starting to use this biofuel as well. Bioethanol is a great environment-friendly fuel that is clearly growing in popularity over the years and may be used more in the foreseen future.
Today’s process of creating bioethanol currently labels it as a first-generation fuel. This means that the current process is creating only a portion of its available energy potential. To break down the cellulose of the plant matter that is used in creating such fuels would label it as a second-generation fuel. Second-generation biofuels would have more energy potential than the first generation biofuels. Unlocking more of this energy consumption would make biofuels and bioethanol more valuable to the economic market. Experiments are being done to make second-generation biofuel, but there is no current process that can create these biofuels.
The growth of biofuels would increase in popularity if these second-generation biofuels could be made. Even though biofuels have grown rapidly over the years they only make up 1% of the total vehicle fuel consumption. Worldwide biofuel only makes up for 0.2% of energy consumption. Bioethanol fuel is slowly on its way to become the better choice for energy consumption for our world.