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Alternative Fuel Sources - Moving Away From Gas

Aug 17, 2007
With soaring gas prices, and concerns about the effects fossil fuel use is having on the environment, researchers are scrambling to find alternative fuel options for America's dependence on foreign oil. While others are being studied, there are currently several promising fuel options already in limited use across the nation:

Biodiesel:
One of cleanest, cheapest and easiest fuel options to implement, biodiesel, fuel can be made from vegetable and soy bean oils and animal fats, as well as recycled restaurant grease.

In its pure form (100%), biodiesel is a clean-burning fuel that emits very little air pollutants, and would help reduce dangerously high levels of hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and sulfates in the air, by limiting the use of traditional petroleum products.

Switching the average consumer to biodiesel fuel may be one of the easiest and cheapest transfers among all the alternative fuel sources available. Most cars and trucks built since 1994 are designed to already accept biodiesel fuel with little or no modifications. No new or special pumps are needed to make it available to the public, and according to a recent study by the United States Department of Energy, current U.S. stockpiles of soybean and other usable foodstuffs are currently available to produce nearly 2 billion gallons of biodiesel. That's just 5% of America's annual fuel usage.

Ethanol:
Once considered the alternative fuel of choice, ethanol has taken a back burner to other options in recent years as critics contend that it takes more energy to make it than Americans will save using it. Still, research continues to find ways to make this fuel option easier to make. Ethanol is a clear, colorless fuel that is made by distilling ground corn, and other high-sugar plants (such as sugar beets, grasses and even some fast-growing trees), into grain alcohol using a wet-milling process.

Electricity:
A completely clean fuel, interest in using electricity to fuel cars is rising. While storage capacity is small in most current models, limiting the amount of miles an electric car can drive before needing to recharge, solar and wind power may be a "recharging" option in the future, making the electric car more accessible and usable for the average driver.

Hydrogen:
Hydrogen is used to grow fuel cells that can be converted into electricity for cars. Although Hydrogen emissions are low, critics contend that since it is made from burning fossil fuels such as coal, gas and nuclear energy, it isn't a viable large-scale alternative for lowering the country's gas consumption.

Methanol:
Also known as wood alcohol, methanol can be used in an 85% (methanol) - 15% (gasoline), mix in flexible fuel vehicles. Blended with gasoline to enhance the octane and provide a cleaner fuel, methanol is produced by reforming natural gas to create a synthetic gas fed into a reactor to produce methane and water vapor. While the technology showed promise at first, most car manufacturers eventually stopped producing flexible fuel vehicles when concerns rose over contaminated ground water produced during the methanol production process.

While alternatives due exist for our country's reliance on fuel, more research is needed to find the best source to replacing our dependence on fossil fuels.
About the Author
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