Over the last ten years, the emphasis on reducing fuel emissions has been an agenda for many governments. In a bid to reduce their collective carbon footprint, many people have started looking for a way to control their impact on the environment. It is due to such a situation that the use of Ethanol fuel has increased in many countries. However, those wanting to switch to a different type of fuel have many questions about Ethanol. Many of these are concerned with what this fuel really is and how big a dent it makes in our lives and pockets.
Ethanol is more common in our lives than you may think. After all, any alcoholic beverage you can drink comprises of Ethanol. It is known by many different names such as Ethyl alcohol, pure alcohol and grain alcohol. It is regarded as an alternative form of fuel that has gained much popularity for a number of reasons.
The most common use of Ethanol fuel is by blending it with gasoline. Doing so creates a mix that releases fewer emissions into the environment and is considered cleaner in nature. It also keeps the car in a better shape by increasing the octane rating of the fuel. All in all, it is accepted by the people, governments and car companies for the many benefits it provides.
In case you were wondering, Ethanol does not occur naturally in any eco-system. It is produced through the processes of fermentation and distillation. While the energy based use of Ethanol fuel is new, it has been part of our lives for a very long time. Fermenting sugar creates Ethanol – knowledge used by our forefathers. These days, it comes from crops and plants that are rich in sugar or have the ability to be converted into cellulose and starch. Sugarcane, barley, sugar beets, wheat and corn are commonly used for production.
The process starts by grinding up the crops or plants meant for production. After this, the ground up substance is refined to get sugar, cellulose or starch. This is then allowed to ferment, thanks to which carbon dioxide and ethanol are produced. Once the ethanol is distilled and purified, it is ready for use. Having a four-step process like this allows the production to be comparatively cost-effective, which is one big reason for the use of Ethanol fuel in our current economy.
Ethanol fuel is not a trend that has come in recently and will die out soon. Governments and automobile manufacturers have recognized the benefits of using it and are working towards integrating it into everyday use. A number of vehicles now come designed with engines that can work with the standard gasoline-ethanol blend. All of this because there are many known benefits of using this form of fuel.
Advantages of Ethanol as a Fuel
1. Renewable Resource: One of the first benefits of Ethanol is that in comparison to gasoline, it can be renewed. With the increased use of gas in our industries, many of the viable reservoirs are depleting. However, Ethanol can be produced as long as the raw material needed for it can be grown.
2. Use of By-products: Another benefit derived from the use of Ethanol fuel is that the two by-products can be used in a helpful manner. While the first one is Ethanol itself, the other is carbon dioxide that can be fed to the plants which are being grown for the purpose of being fermented. This cycle has the potential to become self sustaining and reducing air pollution.
3. Lower Emissions: When Ethanol is added to the fuel, it burns in a cleaner manner and releases fewer emissions in comparison to pure gasoline. While most car engines are not equipped to work without gasoline, technology is attempting to alter that. Many new car models are being fitted with engines that can work through alternate means of energy. In the future, it is quite possible to have vehicles that can depend on the use of Ethanol fuel alone.
4. Reduces Dependance on Foreign Oil: Since ethanol is domestically produced, from domestically grown crops, it help reduce dependance on foreign oil and greenhouse gas emissions. If we could run our vehicles on 100% ethanol, the difference would be noticeable.
5. Booming Farming Industry: Ethanol production has created more jobs in rural areas as it is produced from domestically grown crops. The need for increased production of corn and grains has set the farming industry booming.
6. Anti Freeze: Ethanol fuel is anti-freeze. In colder climates, Ethanol-blend fuel will not freeze even under freezing temperatures.
A common blend used these days is E85 i.e. 85% Ethanol and 15% gasoline. The mileage provided by this blend is lesser than that of pure gasoline or the E10 (10% Ethanol) blend. However, the benefit of using the E85 blend is that the oil remains clean for a longer time, there is lesser stress on the engine and the overall engine maintenance reduces. The cost of lower mileage gets covered up thanks to these small benefits. Not to mention, the overall reduction of your carbon footprint, which is the one benefit from the use of Ethanol fuel that everybody should aspire for.
Image credit: Solenteer
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