Biodiesel Fuel The biggest problem the United States faces today when we talk about becoming energy independent is replacing the gas we use to power our vehicles. When we talk about replacing gasoline as the fuel we use to power our vehicles, biomass, hydrogen, and fuel cells are the three most talked about alternatives. Biomass, which is organic material made from plants and animals, contains stored energy from the sun. Biomass in the form of bio fuels can be used to make the same products as those we make from fossil fuels.
Its main advantages over fossil fuels are that bio fuels are better for the environment and can be produced right here in the United States. Although some experts complain that bio fuels release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which is a greenhouse gas that causes global warming, they are actually carbon dioxide neutral. This is because the growing of the plants used in biomass production take in as much carbon dioxide as the bio fuels let out. Some experts as well as lobbyist for the farming industry are pushing ethanol from corn as the replacement for gasoline.While we believe every alternative to gasoline should be explored, using corn to produce ethanol is not a good idea.
There are many reasons for this reasoning. First of all producing ethanol from corn is energy negative. This means it takes more energy in the process of growing, cultivating, harvesting, and transporting of the corn used in the production of ethanol and in the converting of the corn to ethanol than t...
he energy we would get out of the end product. In fact some experts believe it takes up to seventy percent more energy to convert corn to ethanol than the energy we get from it.Also using corn to make ethanol would deplete our food supply of corn.
Already ethanol plants consume twelve percent of our nation’s corn production with very modest reductions in our oil consumption. Since corn is used in many of the foods and drinks we consume daily, from cereals to high fructose corn syrup which is used in soda and candy, we would be setting ourselves up for a disaster when corn supplies dwindle and we are forced to choose between the food we need to survive and the fuel we need to power our vehicles. Ethanol also has less energy per volume than gasoline.If we are going to use ethanol as a replacement for gasoline, it would be better to use waste byproducts to produce ethanol.
Researchers are experimenting using such things as food wastes, grass clippings, and leaves instead of corn to make ethanol. This would solve another major problem facing the United States today which is waste disposal. Farmers are also experimenting planting fast growing products such as switch grass and poplar trees which would reduce the costs of producing ethanol which is more expensive to produce than gasoline.A second way to rid our dependence on oil and the gasoline that comes from it is hydrogen. Hydrogen powered vehicles are being researched by all of the major auto companies and holds promise for the future.
powered vehicles are better for the environment than gasoline powered vehicles and the hydrogen used would be produced right here in the United States. Even with all the promise hydrogen holds for the future, some experts believe it will not be feasible to use it to replace gasoline. This is because hydrogen is not a primary energy source in itself.Hydrogen must be obtained by using another energy source. This is done by the electrolysis of water or the breaking down of natural gas.
Also hydrogen is highly explosive and must be compressed or cooled to a liquid at minus 2530 degrees Celsius. Hydrogen is also not easy to handle and there are not many hydrogen filling stations around that we would need to fill up our vehicles. Unless our government starts an ambitious plan to have hydrogen stations installed so they are readily available this will not be a realistic substitute for the replacement of gasoline.Fuel cells are another technology that auto makers are pursuing as a replacement to gasoline to power our vehicles. Fuel cells are electro chemical devices that convert chemical energy of a fuel into electricity.
They are very efficient when compared to the combustion engine at twice the efficiency. Fuel cells also emit no pollution into the atmosphere with co2 and water vapor being it’s only by products. They also come with their disadvantages as well. The main disadvantage of fuel cells is their high initial costs.Also they must use another fuel source with hydrogen being the most practical to work and we have already discussed above the problems with hydrogen.
In the future experts hope to use methanol instead of hydrogen to combine with oxygen which is readily available in the air to power fuel cells. This would be a major breakthrough since methanol is just as easy to transport and distribute as gasoline. There is no magic bullet solution in getting rid of gasoline as the fuel we use to power our vehicles just like there is no magic bullet solution for the replacement of oil, natural gas, and nuclear energy that we use to produce electricity.The one thing our government can do right now to reduce the amount of gasoline we use is to pass legislation doubling the fuel efficiency of our vehicles which would cut in half the amount of gasoline we would consume.
However with the powerful oil lobby that has a hold over our politicians this will probably never happen. Although oil is still the easiest and least expensive way to fuel our economy when compared to all the clean and renewable technologies we have discussed above, it is a finite resource and one we must rely on other countries for.Whether it is energy independence, a cleaner environment, or maintaining our country’s economic prosperity; we must begin the shift from oil, natural gas, and nuclear energy to clean, renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, tidal, wave, hydroelectric, geothermal, co-generation, fuel cells, or any other sources of energy that will help us become energy independent and do it in a way that is environmentally friendly. All of the energy sources