We can describe ethanol as a renewable and home produced alcohol fuel that is majorly composed from plant material the examples of which are corn, sorghum or even grasses. The chemical formula of ethanol is C2 H5OH. For many years ethanol which is commonly familiar as a form of alcohol in a number of beverages has found application in the US and some other countries as motor fuel. To use ethanol as a fuel, it is blended into gasoline in concentrations of between 5 and 10 percent. Ethanol use has substituted the use of methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) as a component of gasoline especially in California. Currently, 95 percent and above of the gasoline used in the US is inclusive of 6 percent of ethanol. A blend of ethanol and gasoline called E85, which is composed of 85 percent of ethanol and 15 percent of gasoline, is gaining market steadily for employment in vehicles that are fuel flexible (Bailey, 1996).
To complement the use of ethanol as fuel, ethanol is incorporated in a blend with diesel fuel to form ‘E-Diesel’ and has also found use in replacement of leaded gasoline for aviation in small aircrafts. Owing to its growing popularity in the US, ethanol fuel has sharply increased in its use to over 13.2 billion gallons from the 1.7 billion gallons in 2001. From this analysis, we can easily conclude of its greater merits over the demerits as a fuel (Bailey, 1996).
In the US, the tolerance of ethanol is attached to the particular vehicle in use, while in Brazil, vehicles that are powered by ethanol and the flexible fuel vehicles are able to run on hydrated ethanol which is a water and ethanol azeotrope (Rahman, 2014). It is said that some vehicles are even capable of running on pure ethanol which is even better.
Ethanol being an emerging source of energy to compete the Rockefeller’s gasoline, it also has its merits or demerits to its advantage or disadvantage.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Ethanol as a fuel
Unlike in the case of other fuel sources like petroleum, ethanol is renewable. The use of fuel made of ethanol as opposed to gasoline reduces the emissions of carbon dioxide by a margin of 34%. Since ethanol is a product of the renewable feed-stocks from plants, then there are high possibilities that the carbon dioxide that is emitted from cars shall be recycled by the growth of the feed-stocks. Furthermore this shall reduce the green- house effect by a range of 34%. It is said that the use of ethanol has reduced according to analysis, the emission of greenhouse gases from motor emissions by 39.6 million metric tons, an equivalent of facing off 8.4 million vehicles for a year. The low volumetric energy content of ethanol may imply using at least a third more of ethanol than the gasoline moving over same distances which is a con to this much admired fuel, otherwise the very high octane rating of the ethanol shall ensure a good engine performance and increased efficiency. Due to its low freezing point and low heat of combustion, it guarantees cold weather engine starting which is advantageous. On top of the many goods the ethanol may provide, it shall lead to high and long-term advantages economically over the fossil fuels. The use of ethanol may come with a cost where large tracts of arable land shall be required to plant the crops leading to deforestation and erosion of soil or even environmental problems accrued from disposal of the fermentation liquors but then the benefits surpass the demerits. The government has fully supported the act of renewable energy since 1978 providing incentives and subsidies for renewable energy. Ethanol is thus the best product and the best of fuels we have that grants the opportunity to save the universe from the dangerous and scaring aspect of global warming.
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