Alternatives to Gas: Ethanol

What is Ethanol?

Car Tips

Ethanol is one of the more popular alternative fuels produced in the United States. It is the same type of alcohol found in common alcoholic beverages. Its main use is as a motor fuel for consumer and commercial vehicles. Generally this fuel is used as an additive for gasoline.

The E85 blend is becoming more popular around the United States. It can be found at many traditional gas stations, especially in areas with a lot of farming. A traditional source of this fuel is corn, making places like the Midwestern states a popular area for production.

Advantages of Using for Consumers

Ethanol in particular has many advantages for both the consumer and the environment when used to fuel vehicles in place of traditional gasoline. Aside from reduced tailpipe emissions, it is also has a very high effective octane rating. This means that the use of E85 not only reduces heat inside a car’s engine, but also increases vehicle performance.

Advantages for Farmers

Localized production of biofuels offers great advantages to farmers for a variety of reasons. If a farmer is able to produce their own fuel, their operational costs can be significantly decreased over time. The use of biofuels for these purposes also decreases the dependence on one specific type of fuel which can drive down costs for everyone.

Disadvantages of Use

On the other hand, this fuel comes with many disadvantages as well, particularly for the average consumer. While the common E85 blend is cheaper than traditional gasoline, it is less efficient. This drives down the miles per gallon, making the fuel more expensive overall. Problems with fuel systems in vehicles can also arise when cars are not modified to process the fuel properly.

Another problem that may arise through more use of these biofuels is an increase in food costs throughout the United States and the world. When corn is used to produce this fuel, petroleum and other fuels are used in that production, thereby nullifying the environmental benefits of use.

Looking to the Future

While most alternative fuel is sourced from corn in the United States, this will not always be the case. Current research makes it possible for these fuels to be sourced from algae and waste products such as orange peels and saw dust. This may not also fuel vehicles, but also solve waste problems in the future.