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Is Ethanol Truly A Viable Option?

Most people recognize the simple fact that there is only a certain amount of oil reserves in the planet. And anything that is in limited supply is certain to run out sooner or later. Because all societies are so dependent on oil, if oil ran out before a sufficient alternative was created, there would be bedlam and chaos. The good news is that there are plenty of alternative energy sources being investigated. The bad news is that many of them are years away from fully replacing oil completely.

One of the biggest contenders to take over when oil expires is ethanol. Ethanol is similar to alcohol, is made from grain, and can propel an ethanol based engine just like gasoline can run a gasoline engine. While there are several good reasons to switch to ethanol as fast as we can, there are also some drawbacks as well. In this article I’ll go over some the basics when it comes to using ethanol for fuel.

Ethanol can be made from most grain crops. Corn is the most desirable, as it gives the best yield. The first benefit of ethanol is that it is renewable, meaning that you can continue to grow corn in the same field, year after year, and convert it to fuel. This means that a relatively small area of land can produce a virtual limitless supply of fuel.

Another clear benefit of using ethanol is that it is clean burning. Zero emissions. No greenhouse gasses, no carbon emissions, no impact on global warming. The idea of an unlimited, clean burning source of fuel almost seems good to be true. Is it?

Unfortunately, at this point in time, it is. The major drawback to creating ethanol from fields of corn is that in order to plant, harvest, and transform the corn into ethanol, gasoline powered equipment is required. And with current technology, on average, it takes about a gallon and a half of gasoline to produce one gallon of ethanol. This is clearly a losing proposition.

Another major drawback is that for every acre of corn that is set aside for ethanol, that is one acre of farmland that is not being used to grow food. At with the capacity of the world’s farms just barely keeping up with the food demands of the world, setting aside thousands of acres to grow fuel doesn’t make much economic sense.

How to solve this problem? It’s clear that ethanol is still in the experimental stage. Until more than a gallon of ethanol can be produced with a gallon of gasoline, or even ethanol itself, no more than a few acres should be set aside for this experimental energy. The world food demands are much more important at this time.