Elements and Compounds

Why would converting to 100 percent ethanol be good?

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December 14, 2008 2:47AM

I don't think it would be, for three reasons: Ethanol is a very expensive fuel to make, in terms of resources expended. Every kind of fuel has an "energy profit" or "energy returned on energy expended" value. The higher this value is, the more economical the fuel is. Petroleum's EROEI is about 10:1--you need to use one gallon of petroleum to make ten gallons of finished petroleum product. This varies depending on where you get the oil, where it's going to be refined and where it's going to be used. Obviously, the EROEI of Saudi crude that's refined and used in Saudi Arabia is higher than that of the same crude that's refined and used in California. Ethanol's EROEI is 1.2:1--each gallon of ethanol used nets you 1.2 gallons of finished fuel. Second, it's an expensive fuel to use. Each gallon of ethanol gives 66 percent of the power of a gallon of gasoline. If you need a gallon of gasoline to get to work every day, you'll need 1.5 gallons of ethanol to make the same trip. And third, diverting food to fuel is foolish because people and animals need to eat, and the diversion of food to fuel has already caused grain prices to rise. There are some good alternative fuels, but ethanol isn't one of them. I like the Fischer-Tropsch process for making motor fuel from coal, and biodiesel from algae. Oh yes...the other fuel that's supposed to save us all, hydrogen? Hydrogen SUCKS as a fuel. Its EROEI is 0.5:1--you need to burn two gallons of hydrogen to produce one, and normally you get the energy to make it from electricity. If you're going to use two "gallons" of electricity to produce one "gallon" of hydrogen for your car, you're better off with an electric car.