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The world runs on gasoline, there’s no argument there. It is projected that motor vehicles are responsible for about ½ of the harmful emissions in the air according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (1). This is concerning knowing that most of the globe relies on automobiles or other fossil fuel dependent transportation to run its economy. This is a growing issue in the environmental field and by finding a substitute for gasoline such as ethanol fuel; it could restore our damaged home.
In 1896 Henry Ford created his first automobile, the quadricycle, a car made to run on 100% pure ethanol. In 1908 Ford Motor Company created the successful Model T, which was designed to run on ethanol alcohol, a mixture of ethanol and gasoline. In the 1940s the first ever U.S. ethanol fuel plant was built by and for the U.S. military to supply fuel to the army. From the 1940’s to the 1970s, ethanol use became low because of cheap gasoline. In 1990 the Clean Air Act Amendments was passed which promoted cleaner burning fuels implemented in gasoline and in 1992 the Energy Policy Act was passed to restrict the U.S.’s dependence on foreign petroleum. In the late 1990’s car companies began selling Flexible Fuel Vehicles which can use up to 85% ethanol. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 requires that U.S. gasoline must have a minimum amount of renewable fuel. (3)
Ethanol fuel is an energy source made from corn and sugar cane, it is the same alcohol used for alcohol drinks. Ethanol burns cleaner than gasoline, which lowers emissions in the air; and can be grown meaning that it is a renewable resource in contrast to fossil fuels. Ethanol is mainly grown in the U.S. with the potential to create an independence from foreign oil. E85 (85% ethanol in gasoline) users report that they feel no defects or degrade but sometimes an improvement in performance and reliability in their automobile (2).
In some parts of the mid west and in Brazil, people are using E85 ethanol in gasoline. According to Stephan Dinan, E85 accounts for 40% of automobile fuel used in Brazil, this helped Brazil establish its independence from foreign oil by the end of 2006. This type of success story is a live example of what the United States and the world should try to accomplish. Brazil uses sugar cane to produce ethanol in contrast to the use of corn in the U.S. which under the circumstances may be only a dream since corn and sugar are different and Brazil and America are geologically different. “Corn and other grains could never reach Brazil’s level of replacing 40 percent of the gasoline sold in the United States” said Bob Dineen, president of the Renewable Fuels Association. (6)
E85 or 85% ethanol in gasoline cannot be used by a majority of automobiles and requires a Flex Fuel vehicle or configuration of a previously gasoline running car. Flex fuel allows cars to run on fuel up to 85% ethanol and because of its decreased dependence on gasoline and oil, users can rely on their vehicle more than gasoline with its increased efficiency and become more environmentally friendlier as ethanol burns much more cleaner than gasoline.
Using ethanol fuel seems to be the way to go when deciding on a fuel source for gasoline; it is good to the environment, separates us from foreign oil, and is a renewable source of energy, but there are some problems and controversies that may occur when deciding on a high concentration of ethanol for fuel; such as the “Food vs. Fuel” controversy. This, along with other complaints about ethanol fuel, argues negative long-term consequences and describes future problems that may occur when using ethanol fuel.
“Food vs. Fuel” is what the name implies, because ethanol is made of corn, the food supply will decrease as a result of an increase in ethanol in gasoline. “According to the UN World Food Programme, 854 million people were undernourished in 2001-2003, and about 10 million people die of hunger and hunger-related diseases in an average year. However, demand for biofuel feedstocks is overwhelming a food supply system that was already overextended by surging demand.” (4). The lack of food in a situation like this would cause the price of crops like corn to rise, which affects most of the food market because corn is so implemented in food today. These people with concerns of a staving population are in a sense, strong supporters of petroleum use and foreign oil and do not see the potential of a renewable and environmentally friendly source of energy.
The concern of excess pesticides in the soil and runoff is another reason that people have concern for bio-fuel and are hesitant on this subject. “More of the fertilizers and pesticides used to grow corn would find their way into nearby water sources if ethanol demands lead to planting more acres of the crop, according to research by Purdue University, West Lafayette, Ind.” (5). Although support for bio-fuels may cause problems like these; the emission problem, which is the main cause of global warming, seems to be a more immediate problem than situations like runoff.
Ethanol fuel in a high concentration with gasoline has benefits such as a separation from foreign oil, it burns cleaner compared to gasoline which is good for the environment, and it is a renewable resource which can be grown as opposed to the nonrenewable of gasoline and petroleum. Even though there are a majority of benefits, there are also some concerns about the state of the food supply and the environment for example.
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