Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Ethanol as a fuel – Positives and negatives

Ethanol is a type of renewable fuel source that is getting plenty of talk lately and there is a growing number of signs for E85 gasoline at many of local service stations. E85 is the most common blend of ethanol which is a fuel that has 85 percent ethanol fuel and 15 percent traditional gasoline. Many cars are designed to run on E85 fuel, and so it comes to a very little surprise that more and more gas stations are blending traditional gasoline with ethanol mixtures to make the fuel more viable. The US Congress is also supporting the use of ethanol and is encouraging service stations to increase its ethanol amount as a means of reducing the country's dependence on foreign oil. Now let us take a closer look at positives and negatives of using ethanol as fuel.

The positives of using ethanol fuel:

  • Environmentally friendly fuel as compared to conventional fuel-Ethanol is more environmentally-friendly than traditional gasoline which is way many legislators push to allow more ethanol into gasoline mixtures. The other fact that implies that ethanol is ecologically acceptable fuel is that this is a renewable fuel source, harvested from corn crops, which actually absorb carbon emissions while they grow. Ethanol isn't 100% environmentally friendly because it still burns some CO2 as you drive, but its carbon footprint is significantly lower than that of gasoline.
  • Ethanol can help economy by creating more jobs: Unlike crude oil, which is imported from the Middle East, ethanol is domestically grown. In United States there are many farms across the Midwest and Great Plains that have specified areas set aside specifically for corn crops that are to be converted to ethanol. Increased ethanol production means that more jobs that will likely be added to support growth of ethanol industry. 
  • The increased ethanol production leads to reduced foreign oil imports: Another big positive to using more ethanol in gasoline mixtures is that it allows gradual reduction in America's dependence on foreign oil. Reducing the number of crude oil imports and increasing the production of ethanol could create big boost to economy and keep plenty of money within domestic borders instead filling pockets of mega-rich Sheiks.

The negatives of using ethanol fuel:

  • Very modest gas mileage. The cars that are filled with higher ethanol gas mixtures get significantly worse gas mileage compared to cars that are fueled with pure gasoline. The current analyses showed that E85 lessens fuel economy up to 30 percent. What this means is that the gas mixtures with 10-15 percent ethanol will likely lead to about a three percent decrease in fuel economy. 
  • Negative effect on car's fuel tank. Another negative of using ethanol fuel mixtures involves the potential long-term effects it might have on a vehicle's fuel tank. Ethanol is alcohol and alcohol has the ability to break down seals and cause damage to engines, meaning that filling up your tank with ethanol mixtures, especially older car model, could lead to a significantly decreased lifespan of your vehicle. 
  • Agricultural and social effects: The increased ethanol production could have devastating effect on the agricultural industry. If more crops are grown to purpose of harvesting for ethanol, this will disrupt the balance between that and harvesting crops for food, likely leading to even more hunger in the world. Making ethanol from food crops such as corn is therefore not only agricultural but also social issue, meaning that ethanol producers should focus more on producing ethanol from non-food crops or algae.

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