The increased use of bioethanol is seen by many as a compelling way of reducing our dependence on non-renewable fossil fuels.

Rather than using gasoline derived from crude oil to power our vehicles, why not use bioethanol, an alcohol produced from plants?

What is Bioethanol?

In the most basic terms, bioethanol is grain alcohol, the same thing that is in alcoholic beverages, although additives are intentionally used to make it undrinkable. The result of switching to fuel created from renewable resources should be better for the environment, yet problems currently exist with this new technology that will hopefully be solved in the near future.

corn growing in fields for bioethanol

Corn is a very energy intensive crop, using vast quantities of fossil fuels in both the equipment used to plant and harvest it and in the petrochemicals utilized for fertilizers and pesticides

 

Some Of The Advantages Of Bioethanol.

  • Because plants are used to make bioethanol, it is a renewable resource, something we are all seeking as fossil fuels become more scarce and expensive.

The sugars contained in plants are fermented to become alcohol, a potent fuel source. One of the benefits of this fuel is it is biodegradable and has low toxicity. The sugars and starches in plants are the product of photosynthesis, the process by which plants use the energy from sunlight to make sugar, so the ultimate source of the energy is the sun.

  • Bioethanol is a much “cleaner” fuel in many aspects than oil, releasing only carbon dioxide and water when burned.

For those worried about carbon dioxide emissions, in theory, the carbon dioxide released during the burning of bioethanol will be reabsorbed by the crops used to produce it. Most bioethanol is currently produced using corn, sugar cane and sugar beets.

 

Some Of The The Disadvantages of Bioethanol

The plant material used to make bioethanol is referred to as the feedstock.

  • Controversy exists over the use of food crops as the feedstock, as many feel these crops are needed to feed the world rather than producing fuel.

There are also concerns that using food crops to produce ethanol will cause prices for food to rise.

  • Another source of controversy is the amount of energy required to produce many of these crops for bioethanol

Corn in particular is a very energy intensive crop, using vast quantities of fossil fuels in both the equipment used to plant and harvest it and in the petrochemicals utilized for fertilizers and pesticides.

  • An additional concern involves the competition created when using prime land to produce fuel rather than food.

Alternative fuel production using biomass is a relatively new industry, and current research is involved with seeking non-food sources of feedstock for the process. Informed consumers have helped push this effort to switch to different plant materials. Rather than using sugar and starch containing plant foods, why not use the cellulose contained in stems, branches and other parts of plants that are mainly considered waste? Various proposed alternatives include using waste products from agriculture, forestry, and the paper industry as well as specific non-food fuel crops grown only for this purpose. Currently, commercially producing bioethanol from the cellulose in these waste products is still too expensive to be practical, but many see this as the future of bioethanol.

The Current Situation For Use Of Bioethcal As Fuel

Right now, E10, a mix of 90 percent gas and 10 percent ethanol is widely available and can be used in conventional vehicles. Only specially designed engines, in flexible fuel vehicles can use E85, composed of 15 percent gas and 85 percent ethanol. In addition to its utilization for transportation, currently there are fireplaces available that burn bioethanol. Researchers are busy investigating many other uses for this clean fuel.

 

About the Author
Grace Pamer is a work from home mom and the author of www.RomanticFrugalMom.com, one woman’s on going quest to get her family to go green whilst keeping romance alive in her marriage. Check out her love letters for her section if you need help writing a love letter to your nearest and dearest because of a hectic schedule because ethical living starts at home.

Image: prozac1 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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