The demand for energy and its impact on the environment are the motive forces of searching for the alternative sources of energy. Ethanol is ethyl alcohol that can be an effective fuel for the motors. The chemical formula of ethanol is C2H6O. It is blended into gasoline in the amount from five to ten percent. The usage of ethanol as a transportation fuel decreases environmental pollution, lessens the reliance on fossil fuels, and contributes to further development of environmental-friendly transportation.
The promotion of low carbon biofuels in the US is the consequence of the concerns about emissions of greenhouse gas and the wish to lessen the significance of foreign oils to the US market (Chen, 2014). The quantity of renewable transportation fuels of the first generation is limited nowadays, and because of this much attention is given to the second-generation biofuels (Hossain, 2014). Potentially, they can be produced from dedicated energy crops and forest residues. Studies suggest that productive growth of energy crops is possible on low-quality land (Chen, 2014). However, there is a problem of fuel versus food, because much land is needed for the growth of crops necessary for the production of fuel. Moreover, some of these crops can be used as food. The usage of the crops as fuels inevitably leads to the increase of food prices.
The US adopted policies for the induction of biofuels. For transportation fuel, there are performance-based standards and technology (biofuel) mandates. The Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) established the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) in 2007 (Chen, 2014). Annually, it sets volumetric targets for mixing certain kinds of biofuels with fossil fuels, depending on the GHG intensity of their life-cycle. The GHG intensity of transportation fuel is controlled by the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS). The initial target of this standard is to reduce the transportation fuel GHT intensity by ten percent till 2020 (Chen, 2014). Since 1978, there are tax incentives that help ethanol compete with gasoline. According to existing substances regulations, up to ten percent of ethanol can be added to petroleum.
Though the Clean Air Act prohibits selling new fuel additives or unleaded fuels in the USA, the usage of C1-C6 alcohols mixtures as transportation fuels has a lot of technical and other advantages. Among them is the amelioration of octane number, improved control of fuel volatility, enhanced water tolerance as opposed to unblended gasoline, and improvement of hydrocarbon solubility by contrast with unblended gasoline (Herreros, Lapuerta, Lowe, and Njuguna, 2013). Ethanol contributes to the reduction of emission of greenhouse gases from transport vehicles. The risk of water pollution is lower when using ethanol. From the point of view of energy security, ethanol decreases the risk of dependence on foreign petroleum supplies. Production of ethanol creates new workplaces in rural areas with limited employment opportunities.
Ethanol as an alternative fuel also has certain significant disadvantages. The energy content in ethanol is lower than in gasoline; it takes 1.5 times less gasoline to travel the same distance than ethanol. The production cost of ethanol is substantially higher than the production cost of gasoline from petroleum. There is a concern that ethanol production from crops will lead to competition with food production and engender the product security of developing countries. Moreover, production of ethanol creates toxic waste products.
In conclusion, ethanol appears to be the best alternative fuel for transportation that has many benefits that no other alternative fuel can offer. The use of this substance for transportation is increasing globally. Though there are some disadvantages of using ethanol and issues about its production (like food concerns because of land occupation by fuel crops and emission of toxic substances during the production process), the usage of this fuel will grant the energy independence to the US and will lessen the impact on the environment, so it is worth the cost.
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