As the cost of a gallon of gasoline tops four dollars, researchers are scrambling to come up with a viable fuel alternative that’s cheaper and readily available. Three of these include: Biodiesel, Electricity, and Ethanol.
Biodiesel is a renewable fuel produced by a variety of vegetable oils and animal fats. It can be used in a pure form or blended with other products. Biodiesel is clean burning, non toxic and biodegradable.
It’s also less combustible and relatively easy to produce domestically and can even be made at home but this is not recommended. If strict guidelines are not followed it could damage an expensive diesel engine. It’s safe to handle, store and transport making it very desirable from a security and health standpoint. The U. S. biodiesel industry currently is very small but growing rapidly.
Electricity can be used to power pure electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. Electric vehicles (EVs) work by storing energy in batteries and powering the wheels by an electric motor. Storage capacity and distance are limited. Some have on board chargers and others require a plug-in.
These vehicles are small but quiet and have no tail pipe emissions. They’re mostly used for neighborhood commuting, light hauling and delivery with a maximum speed of 35 mph. Batteries have to be replaced about every four years or 20,000 miles.
No major auto manufacturer has yet begun producing a total electric vehicle saying the demand isn’t there. But some small independent manufacturers have found a niche market and increasing demand.
Ethanol is a renewable fuel made from a variety of plants called biomass. In the U. S., ethanol is primarily made from corn but in Brazil they use sugar cane. It contains the same chemical compound found in alcohol.
Research is continuing into Cellulosic Ethanol Feedstock. This includes making the fuel from agricultural residue such as wheat straw and leaves, forestry wastes such as wood chips and sawdust and even plant derived household garbage together with waste paper products.
Grasses are now also being grown for ethanol production. Benefits include total manufacture domestically, low greenhouse emissions and creating jobs in depressed employment sectors.
A gallon of pure ethanol contains 34% less energy than a gallon of gas and gets lower gas mileage. It can only be used in flex fuel vehicles but is usually priced cheaper in order to compete with higher priced gasoline.
The U. S. Department of Energy says these three fuels increase our energy security, improve public health and our environment. Studies estimate that ethanol and other biofuels could reduce more than 30% of gas demand in the United States by the year 2030. Usually, when demand drops, so do prices.