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Alternative Fuels, Research Paper Example

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Research Paper

Ethanol is a clear, colorless liquid which always has the same chemical compound whether it is made from starch or sugar-based feedstock. It is a renewable fuel usually made from plant materials that are collectively known as “biomass” and include corn. Ethanol is already blended with gasoline in the U.S. to oxygenate the fuel and reduce air pollution. The advantages of ethanol include lower greenhouse gas emissions and greater energy security because ethanol is already being produced in the U.S. on a significant scale. The shortcoming is that a gallon of ethanol contains less energy than a gallon of pure gasoline but new technologies are being developed which may increase energy content of ethanol fuel (U.S. Department of Energy).

Electricity is an alternative energy fuel which can be produced from a variety of energy sources such as oil, coal, nuclear energy, water, natural gas, wind energy, and solar energy. Cars with electric plug-in technology draw electricity from electrical power sources and store them in their batteries (U.S. Department of Energy). The benefits of electric technology are that electric cars are more fuel efficient and at the same time, electricity is a cheaper source of energy than gasoline. The shortcoming is the lack of infrastructure such as public charging stations (U.S. Department of Energy).

Hydrogen is an emissions-free alternative fuel that can be produced from a wide variety of domestic sources. Hydrogen is odorless and colorless gas at earth-surface temperatures and the simplest and most abundant element in the universe. Hydrogen is found in water, hydrocarbons, and other organic matter but producing hydrogen from these compounds is still costly, thus, 95% of the hydrogen in the U.S. is produced from natural gas (U.S. Department of Energy). The benefits of hydrogen are that hydrogen generates power without exhaust emissions in fuel cells and can be produced from wide variety of sources such as energy, wind, gas, and solar energy. The main shortcoming is low energy content by volume which makes it challenging to store due to requirements of high pressures, low temperatures, or chemical processes in small spaces (U.S. Department of Energy).

References

U.S. Department of Energy. Benefits and Considerations of Electricity as a Vehicle Fuel. 8 November 2012 <http://www.afdc.energy.gov/fuels/electricity_benefits.html>.

—. Electricity Fuel Basics. 8 November 2012 <http://www.afdc.energy.gov/fuels/electricity_basics.html>.

—. Ethanol Fuel Basics. 8 November 2012 <http://www.afdc.energy.gov/fuels/ethanol_fuel_basics.html>.

—. Hydrogen Basics. 8 November 2012 <http://www.afdc.energy.gov/fuels/hydrogen_basics.html>.

—. Hydrogen Benefits and Considerations. 8 November 2012 <http://www.afdc.energy.gov/fuels/hydrogen_benefits.html>.

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