Ethanol Fuel Has Its Advantages and Disadvantages


Ethanol fuel has been used for transportation needs and has currently replaced about 85 percent of all gasoline that is used for modern vehicles. The product is natural and is made from corn, which is then refined into the fuel that you use in your vehicle.

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One advantage of using ethanol fuel is that it reduces America’s reliance on fossil fuel. While gasoline is still needed for most vehicles on the road, all modern vehicles can use a ratio of 90 to 10 for gasoline and ethanol mixtures. However, some vehicles are called E85 because they can use gas products that have 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline.

Reduce Combustion Emission

When compared to petroleum-based fuels (gasoline), ethanol can reduce GFG emissions effectively. For some vehicle models, you might see a reduction of emissions of up to 29 percent per mile traveled. If this fuel is spilled, it’s not as significant of a problem because three-fourths of the spilled ethanol can be broken down and soaked into the earth in just five days. This only works because ethanol is a corn-based product.

Byproducts Are Useable

Primary byproducts created when producing ethanol include carbon dioxide and DDGs. When ethanol is produced, capture technologies grab the carbon dioxide that’s released, and it can then be used for other needs, such as dry ice creation, pneumatic system agents, and cryogenic freezing. Dried Distillers’ Grains (DDGs) can be used to replace the soybean or cornmeal in animal food, as well.

No New Infrastructure

The fact is that most people worried about ethanol as an additive to gasoline because they worried about having to change the infrastructure drastically. However, America already had the resources and plenty of fuel stations. Nothing new had to be added to the fuel station itself, as the ethanol was added during the refining process of the gasoline. While some modifications had to be added to refineries, distribution networks, and pipelines, it was an easy switch from traditional gasoline to ethanol-gasoline mixtures.

Energy-Balanced Fuel

Back in 2007, corn ethanol produced in the US only used 1.3 energy units for every unit of energy it received. Other ethanol forms can produce more, such as sugarcane ethanol (Brazil). Sugarcane ethanol can produce eight units of energy for each unit it uses. Newer forms of ethanol, such as cellulosic ethanol, can be more effective still. Of course, it depends on which production method is used, but ethanol can provide 36 energy units for each unit it uses.

Other Products/Crops

While the United States focuses primarily on corn-based ethanol, the product can be made of other sources, such as sugarcane. Cellulosic ethanol uses the fibers of the plants rather than the seeds or fruit produced. In fact, cellulosic ethanol can be made from almost any living plant, such as grass or algae.

A few Disadvantages

As with almost everything in life, there are disadvantages to using ethanol-based fuels. For one, it’s not as effective as traditional gas. When you compare it to petroleum-based fuel, ethanol is less effective. It can take up to 1.3 gallons of the ethanol to be similar to the mileage of one gallon of gas. Even flex-fuel vehicles (E85-fuel-based vehicles) have gas mileage rates that are up to 30 percent lower.

Another drawback is that a lot of crops are used to create the fuel. Even if cellulosic ethanol is produced, it still takes a lot of farmland to produce enough crops to fuel the United States. Almost 40 percent of all the corn grown in the US is for fuel-related purposes, and prices can fluctuate significantly based on the season, area where the corn was grown, and demand of fuel at the time.

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Ethanol Fuel Has Its Advantages and Disadvantages

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