Alternative Fuel Sources
Alternative Fuel Sources
With the sustained high price of oil and the
ecological awarenessas a "trendy" aspect of society, a lot of research
has gone into current alternative fuel source.
An alternative fuel such as biofuel comes from
sources; the most commonly used example of a biofuel is E85 gasoline,
which is a mixture of gasoline cut with 85% methyl alcohol.
The other broad catagory of biofuel is biodiesel,
shown as a blend of biodiesel and regular diesel fuel, generally with a
B prefix. B20 is 20% biodiesel and 80% petro-diesel. B100 is completely
The appeal of a biofuel is that it supports
agricultural sectors and
is carbon neutral. While burning a biofuel still releases carbon into
the atmosphere, the biomass used to process the fuel recycles the
carbon through photosynthesis.
However, fossil fuels add to the carbon cycle
because they have
been sequestered by geological processes for thousands of years.
Biofuels also naturally produce lower emissions, barely contain any
sulfur and burns far less carbon monoxide during the burning process.
Another key concept of biofuels is that it offers a double
solution - by making fuel out of the inedible parts of agricultural
products, you can take a lot of material that would've otherwise ended
up burned or turned into low value silage, and render it down into oils
that can be used to run machinery.
This isn't new technology; biodiesel was an alternative fuel for
farming that powered tractors in the 1930's and 40's. Even now, this
alternate is finding it's way into the cars of hard core enthusiasts
who run their vehicles off of old cooking grease. Unfortunetaly, this
isn't viable for large scale operations, but, it does serve as a good
example in recycling. Also, makes for an interesting hobby!
In order to reduce plant matter, we must first
look at biomass
which is the key ingredient in any biofuel. Biomass is the part of the
plant that can be reduced into a biofuel format. The 4 criterion for
judging biomass as a fuel source are rate of growth, environment it
grows in, labor needed to make it grow, and ease of processing into
The ideal biomass for making biofuel would be a
plant that doesn't require as much cultivation as a food crop and which
is readily "cooked" down into a liquid fuel.
The main drawback of corn-driven alcohol is that
of corn turned into fuel is a bushel of corn that isn't used to feed
someone somewhere, so it's competing directly with food crops.
Switchgrass and rapeseed are two candidates that
are gaining a
lot of publicity now because they grow on land that's otherwise used
for cattle grazing; however, the volume of the plant that needs to be
harvested per gallon of fuel means that it's economically less viable
than planting corn for alcohol.
Sugar cane is one of the best sources for an
source, but requires an equatorial climate to thrive and many crops are
doused with harmful chemicals.
The ideal biomass as a fuel source is hemp -
as a fiber for rope, hemp will grow in places where you can't grow
food, it grows quickly, and it grows in high density plots, making it
easy to harvest. It also absorbs 5 times more carbon per acre compared
However, biofuels do have some drawbacks at the
first one is energy density. Petroleum is an incredible energy dense
liquid that remains liquid at useful ranges. Alcohol carries much less
energy per gallon than gasoline does; in general, a gallon of alcohol
will take you 55% as far as a gallon of regular gas.
Biofuels can also cause rubber gaskets and tubing
to wear out
faster and can coagulate when the temperature gets chilly. This isn't
to say that biofuels do not have tremendous potential, in fact, with
the modern advances in technology and the advocacy of research,
solutions to these minor problems will surely emerge.
So, if you're commited to reducing greenhouse
the use of biofuels and make your next car a flex fuel car (flex fuel