The unsuccesful use of ethanol

The unsuccesful use of ethanol

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The Unsuccessful Use of Ethanol

Current interest in ethanol fuel in the United States mainly lies in bio-ethanol, produced from corn, but there has been considerable debate about how useful bio-ethanol will be in replacing fossil fuels in vehicles. Concerns relate to the large amount of arable land required for crops, as well as the energy and pollution balance of the whole cycle of ethanol production. I don't think the US could implement the use of ethanol or other alternate fuels successfully as Brazil has done for many reasons: firstly, ethanol production in the United States does not benefit the nation's energy security, its agriculture, economy or the environment because ethanol production requires large fossil energy input to produce these fuels than you get out from the combustion of these products. Therefore, it is contributing to oil and natural gas imports and U.S. deficits. The country should instead focus its efforts on producing electrical energy from photovoltaic cells, wind power and burning biomass and producing fuel from hydrogen conversion.
Secondly, in Brazil reducing the rate of deforestation seemed likely to be more effective for taking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. In the United States, reliance on ethanol to fuel the automobile fleet would require enormous, unachievable areas of corn agriculture, and the environmental impacts would outweigh its benefits, destroying bio-diversity. Ethanol would be mainly made from bio organic material that will be especially grown for this purpose. It also uses a lot of fuel to grow these plants. The same goes for various kinds of vegetable oils that are said to be environmental friendly. Ethanol cannot alleviate the United States? dependence on petroleum, may, however, still be useful in regions or cities with critical pollution problems, and to make use of agricultural wastes. Basically, an increased demand for ethanol would cause land use changes - destroying forests and grasslands to grow corn or other ethanol crops - ethanol and other bio-fuels actually add to global warming.
Thirdly, as demand for ethanol fuel increases, food crops are replaced by fuel crops, driving food supply down and food prices up. Growing demand for ethanol in the United States has increased corn prices by 50% in Mexico. Average barley prices in the United States rose 17% from January to June 2007 to the highest in 11 years. Prices for all grain crops trend upward, reflecting a progressive increase in farm land devoted to corn for the production of produce ethanol fuel.

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Prices for U.S. corn-based products, including animal feed, also rise. This translates to higher prices for animal products like chicken, beef, and cheese.
Finally, the government spends more than $3 billion a year to subsidize ethanol production when it does not provide a net energy balance or gain, is not a renewable energy source or an economical fuel. Further, its production and use contribute to air, water and soil pollution and global warming, and the vast majority of the subsidies do not go to farmers but to large ethanol-producing corporations. Studies said that after taking into account expected worldwide land-use changes, corn-based ethanol, instead of reducing greenhouse gases by 20 percent, will increases it by 93 percent compared to using gasoline over a 30-year period. Biofuels from switch grass, if they replace croplands and other carbon-absorbing lands, would result in 50 percent more greenhouse gas emissions, the researchers concluded. Since ethanol is so corrosive, it cannot be piped to any location without causing the pipes to corrode very quickly, so therefore it must be trucked in, usually by diesel trucks, trains, or barges, which are more expensive and complicated than sending it down a pipeline. As refiners switched to ethanol this spring, the change in transport needs has likely contributed to the rise in gas prices. Some experts argue that the U. S. doesn't have adequate infrastructure for wide ethanol use. Also, ethanol contains less energy than gas. That means drivers have to make more frequent trips to the pump. Technologically, the process of producing ethanol from sugar is simpler than converting corn into ethanol, but the problem is that United States does not have enough corn fields. Converting corn into ethanol requires additional cooking and the application of enzymes, whereas the conversion of sugar requires only a yeast fermentation process. The energy requirement for converting sugar into ethanol is about half that for corn.
The United State desperately needs a liquid fuel replacement for oil in the near future," says Pimentel, a researcher of Environmental Economics & Sustainable Development, ?but producing ethanol or biodiesel from plant biomass is going down the wrong road, because you use more energy to produce these fuels than you get out from the combustion of these products."
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