English Comp 2
18 September 2012
Alternative Fuels in America
On a national average the world uses 87.8 million barrels of crude oil on a daily basis. In 2000 it was estimated that the US alone consumed nearly 20 million barrels of oil a day, which is about 5% more than similar nations (Friedman 195). Oil consumption is only going to increase until it peaks, then it will steadily decrease as oil supply goes down. It is predicted that oil consumption will peak by the year 2019 (Deffeys 7). Crude oil when burned emits toxic gases like carbon monoxide. These gases are harmful to humans and the environment. Crude oil will eventually run out if it continues to be used at the rate it is now. Crude oil comes from the remains of prehistoric plants and animal remains from thousands of years ago. It will take the earth thousands of years to regenerate more crude oil. Once crude oil is gone, it is gone for the current generation, as well as future generations. In Kenneth Deffeys book Beyond Oil, he explains how for years during the 1950’s up to the 1970’s America was the leader in oil production (17). These days the Middle East is the leader of oil production in countries like Saudi Arabia and Iraq (“Middle East”). The Middle East is very unstable and an unreliable source for oil. For example, look at the situation in the Middle East with terrorist attacking the US embassy. This is causing prices of fuel to rise all over the US and other parts of the world. It seems like there is nothing people can do to escape the high prices and other issues with fuel these days. However, there are alternatives like E85 ethanol and biodiesel that can help to put an end or decrease in these issues. These two sources are also sources that can be run in today’s conventional gasoline and diesel engines with in some cases little to no modifications. Alternative fuels such as e85 ethanol and biodiesel need to be more widely used in America because it would lift foreign dependence on foreign oil, give more work to the struggling, American economy, costs little and is easy to convert, and does not harm the environment as much as gasoline or diesel. E85 ethanol and Biodiesel are both alternative fuels that come from natural sources. Therefore it is renewable, unlike fossil fuels. Ethanol is grain alcohol derived from corn, switch grass, sugarcane, and other renewable sources (Ethanol FAQ). There are even ways garbage can be made into ethanol. To make ethanol corn or other sources are ground up and distilled. This process is very similar to the distillation of alcohol and the final product is similar to alcohol such as Jack Daniels (Nerad 59). The final product of the distillation is pure ethanol which is very flammable. It is so flammable that it has an octane ratio so high that it is not suitable for the average vehicle. Pure ethanol has an octane ratio of about 105 to 113 (Nerad 58). Octane is the rate fuel burns at a given compression. If too high of an octane is used it could cause a ping or explosion of fuel in the combustion chamber. Engine ping is not good and could cause engine damage. An engine needs to burn fuel not explode it. A motor with high compression, such as a sports car motor, needs a higher octane ratio such as 93 or it may ping. Pinging will also occur if too low of an octane is used. However, even most sports cars will not run correctly on pure ethanol. Most vehicles have a low compression of around 8 to 1 which is suitable for 87 octane sold at nearly every gas station. This is where e85 comes into place. E85 is a mixture of 85% ethanol and 15% conventional gasoline (Nerad 59). Mixing the two fuels lowers the octane ratio a bit to make it suitable for just about any motor. Biodiesel is similar to ethanol in the fact that it also comes from renewable source. Biodiesel is formulated from sources like vegetable oil and peanut oil (Woodside 62-63). Soybean oil, hemp oil, canola oil, and sometimes animal fat...
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