Environmentally Safe Ethanol

Environmentally Safe Ethanol

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Environmentally Safe Ethanol

In order to fund conservation of the natural environment, the federal government should increase gasoline tax by one dollar per gallon. How does this statement make you feel? Does it make you want to argue about how unfair this is, especially when gas prices are climbing to higher and higher rates? Would you say that this is an unfair claim because it is unclear where your tax money would go?

I agree. This plan seems to have a good general idea, but there are details left out. I think the first priority should be to sort out where these extra resources would be used. It seems too vague to fund conservation of the natural environment. There are so many ways that this tax could benefit natural resources.

When I was trying to decide on how to narrow this claim to more specific terms, I started to think about what kind of environmental problems affect me the most. The first word that came to mind was pollution. There are many parameters for a suitable environment for life. These include temperature, pressure, salinity, acidity, water and good oxygen content. Any type of air pollution could dissolve these parameters. It seemed that air pollution is such a large environmental problem that I knew my search should be narrowed.

I chose to discuss pollution caused by cars because raising the gas tax and prices are part of my claim. I went to the Internet and ran a search for "car pollution," and found a large amount of information. It became even clearer to me that car pollution is a major problem for our environment.

According to The Environmed Research Inc, driving a car is the most polluting act an average citizen commits (2001). Vehicle engines emit many types of pollutants into the air, including nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, particulates, sulfur dioxide and lead. All of these can pose environmental risks and health risks. Most of these pollutants rise from the engine. These emissions are related to the fuel type and the temperature of the fuel combustion. At low speeds, and when engines are at idle, the products of incomplete combustion dominate. When the speeds are heightened, however, impurities like nitrogen are oxidized to nitrogen dioxide, which creates pollution.

All of the pollutants mentioned above are known as trace gases. Some of these trace gases can even release completely new gases into the atmosphere (Environmental Effects, 2001).

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Burning gasoline emits significant quantities of a wide range of hydrocarbons. Transportation sources account for 30 to 50 percent of all hydrocarbon emissions into the atmosphere.

All of these statistics and facts support my belief that auto pollution is a major problem that needs to be dealt with. Three federal acts have been passed in the past couple of decades. The first was The Alternative Motor Fuel Act of 1988. Second were The Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, and third, The Energy Policy Act of 1992. All three of these acts promoted the use of alternative fuels and fuel vehicles through incentives and emissions standards. The Energy Policy Act, though, mandated the use of alternative fuels for the first time in U.S. history. Although these are all positive steps toward conservation of the natural environment, I think more needs to be done in specific areas. I believe that the best way to resolve or help cut down on environmental pollution is to give the tax money to ethanol research.

Ethanol is an alcohol typically fermented from grain. It is an octane enhancer added to motor fuel up to 10 percent. It will increase octane 2.5 to 3 points. Ethanol suspends and removes moisture as it is used in the fuel system. It eases cold weather starting, improves engine combustion and keeps systems cleaner (Iowa Corn Growers Association, 2001).

Why would ethanol be the solution to this major problem? As I explained earlier, defining specific areas where tax money should be used is key. If all the funds are taken and spread among many sources, each would receive a relatively small amount. The length of time an item is taxed is also a key factor. Since we do not know the length of time gas would be taxed, it would be sensible to choose one area to concentrate on.

The concept of ethanol as a fuel began as early as Henry Ford designed the first Model T car (Environmental Effects, 2001). But America did not use ethanol-blended gasoline until near the beginning of the 1980s. I believe now that more research is needed. The more we learn about ethanol, the more the environment may be helped.

Ethanol is made from agricultural feedstocks and is one of the best tools around used to combat air pollution. It reduces carbon monoxide emissions into the atmosphere by 30 percent. Ethanol also reduces hydrocarbon emissions by 27 percent. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency gives accreditation to reformulated gas (that contains ethanol) for reducing and controlling hazardous emissions, which threaten air quality in many of America's cities (American Coalition for Ethanol, 2001).

The economy benefits from the use of ethanol because it is an unlimited resource. Ethanol blending also reduces foreign oil imports, which contributes more than $2 billion annually to the U.S. trade balance. Also, ethanol is value-added produce of corn that aids in local and state economies like Iowa's. If corn farmers use state-of-the-art, energy efficient and sustainable farming techniques and ethanol plants integrate state-of-the-art production processes, the amount of energy contained in the ethanol and its co-products can be more than twice the energy used to grow the corn and convert it into ethanol (Environmental Effects, 2001).

At the present time, all auto manufacturers warrant a 10 percent ethanol-blended fuel for use. In fact, General Motors and Chrysler recommend the use of ethanol in their vehicles. Nationally, since 1978, motorists have driven more than two trillion road miles and had satisfactory performance with ethanol in their tanks. Ethanol is a proven octane enhancer and can replace lead and other toxic compounds in gasoline.

Energy used or taken can be big factors in the decision of producing large amounts of any product. Ethanol from Iowa and American corn growers can reduce the demand for imported gasoline by 100,000 barrels per day. One acre of corn can make 300 gallons of ethanol, which is enough to fuel four cars for a full year. One less barrel of imported oil is needed for every 28.3 gallons of ethanol used. The use of corn-based ethanol results in a 50-60 percent reduction of fossil fuel energy used (Buchdali, 2000).

The amount of energy saved and the amount of money saved is rising greatly exponentially. There is so much good that can come from ethanol, that it seems unrealistic to let the tax money go to less reliable sources. Ethanol is reliable and a completely reusable source of fuel and energy. If the funds can add to the research and technology of ethanol, it will change the environment immensely.

The future is important to every person. Even though this gas tax seems unimaginable, it may be needed in the future. People realize that natural resources are very important in the conservation of the environment. This gas tax could be a way for the general public to help a cause that affects all of us. I believe that ethanol is viable form of energy. If the federal government would mandate a one-dollar per gallon tax and the funding went to research on ethanol, more jobs could be created. Another result could be lower fuel costs and a cleaner environment. Using a gas tax to research and develop ethanol is the right way to help our world.

Works Cited

"Air Quality." American Lung Association. (October 2001)


American Coalition for Ethanol. "Ethanol General Information." Alternative

Fuels Data Center. (2001) http://www.afdc.doe.gov/altfuel/eth_general.html.

Buchdahl, Joe, and Sue Hare. "Topic Tree." Encyclopedia of the Atmospheric

Environment. (2000) http://www.doc.mmu.ac.uk/aric/eae/english.html.

"Car Exhaust." Environ med Research Inc. (2001).


Donn, Cassandra. "ICPB Takes Ethanol Message on the Road this Summer." News and

Information. (May 2001) http://www.iowacorn.org/release_01ride.htm.

"Environmental Effects of Ethanol and Gasoline." Canadian Renewable Fuels

Association. (January 2001) http://www.greenfuels.org/ethanev1.html.

Iowa Corn Growers Association. "Ethanol." Market Development. (September 2001)


Kaminski, Stephen. "Driven to Compliance: An Alternative Fueled Future." AiChE

Government Relations. (1996)


Litterer, Ron. "Interim Study Committee." News and Information. (January 2001)


National Tax Services, Inc. "Tax Policy: Effects of the Alcohol Fuels Tax Incentives,"

GAO. (March 1997).


Shakashiri, Bassum. "Chemical of the Week: Ethanol." Science is Fun. (October 2001)
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