Friday, December 21, 2012

Alternative Energy 2-Ethanol

Background: Ethanol is an alcohol fuel sourced from corn or other plants like grass and/ or certain types of trees.

Pros: Ethanol is a rapidly growing fuel in popularity and is even featured in some commercials for gasoline companies like Exxon Mobile and Shell. Switching to ethanol (blend E85) sees no drop in engine performance. The unique benefit for ethanol is that it sees a very low addition onto vehicle price, meaning the transition could be smoother than other fuels. For any gearheads, you should know that it reduces engine knock (for those who are not car enthusiasts, here is an explanation: Engine Knocking Explained). And the final advantages are more common, they are that it is mainly domestically produced (U.S), and that it releases less pollutants.

Cons: While this can also be a pro, the cost is know to vary per area, so some places might have to pay more than expected, but then again gasoline is the same. On top of costs, like the other plant-based fuels like Biodiesel, it has a very low energy content, so the mileage is somewhat poor. The mileage drop is estimated to be somewhere from 25-30%. Ethanol also requires a certain type of motor types like flex-fuel vehicles. It is currently not too attractive to smaller gasoline companies because it is expensive to produce, with the costs of growing, special storage needs, extra staff etc. Finally, the biggest con to switching to ethanol is that it has limited availability. There is only so much space to have corn fields in the world, so it would be difficult to keep up with global increasing demand.

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