Ethanol is colorless flammable and volatile liquid which has wide uses ranging from fuel, alcoholic drink and reaction drug, among others. It is a straight chain hydrocarbon with two carbon atoms, six hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atoms. The earliest way of producing ethanol was by the fermentation of sugar. The current major source of ethanol is the purification of petroleum oil. Currently, the largest single use of ethanol is in fuel, as a motor fuel or a fuel additive. Gasoline contains twenty five percent of ethanol. Gasohol, common in the United States contains ten percent ethanol while E85 contains eighty five percent of ethanol. It can be used in cars, lightweight rockets and aircrafts. Its combustion however yields a lot of incomplete petroleum combustion products such as formaldehyde and acetaldehyde. This leads to increased destruction of the environment especially the ozone layer (California Air Resources Board, 1989)
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Advantages of Ethanol Fuel
Ethanol is easily available in most places of the world which makes many people be able to access it when they need it. A person will be able to get ethanol at the place he or she wants to use it. It can be transported to far place where there is no electricity and used as a source of fuel. Electricity can only be transported if there is a wire connecting the source of electricity to the machine being used. Therefore, ethanol is appropriate for those machines such as cars which are moving and are hard to fix wires to transport electricity.
Ethanol is compatible with most of the appliances used in the world today. Most of the cars and machines use ethanol as the source of energy. As compared to other sources of energy such as electricity, ethanol is more likely to fit in more machines than the rest. Most of the cars use ethanol and thus making it appropriate for most of the people. It can also be transported to other places where it can be used.
Ethanol is a renewable source of energy. In comparison with fossil fuels, ethanol is a source of energy which cannot be exhausted. As indicated above, ethanol can be produced from agricultural products such as sugar. Ethanol can thus be used without being exhausted and with little environmental impact. Other fuels like the fossil fuels will deplete the natural resources. This leaves no more resources for the future generations.
Disadvantages of Ethanol Fuel
The use of ethanol has disadvantages as well which limit its use in the fuel industry. Ethanol releases a lot of unburned petroleum products as outlined above. These products lead to pollution in the environment. The products interfere with the ozone layer leading to global warming. Ethanol use with other petroleum products is responsible partly for the climatic change being witnessed in world (Lowi, & Carter, 2007). In the advocacy for green transport, the advocates want people to reduce the use of petroleum products as fuel for their vehicles. Ethanol thus interferes with the ozone layer, increasing the temperatures of the earth's atmosphere, increasing the level of sea water and decreasing the snow covering of the mountains. There are also changes in the climatic patterns of different places in the world. It also leads to air pollution as the unburned products of the ethanol fuel are released to the environment with the potential of causing respiratory diseases to people who inhale the smoke from the vehicle using ethanol as oil (Lowi, & Carter, 2007).
As mentioned above, ethanol is sometimes produced by use of agricultural products. When produced in large scale from these agricultural products, there is a decrease in these products for human consumption. Agricultural products such as sugar cane made for human consumption is converted into fuel reducing the food available for the people. Sugar cane is harvested and instead of being converted to sugar for human consumption, it is changed into ethanol which is used for fueling machines and automobiles. In times of food deficits, the use of agricultural products in the production of ethanol should not be allowed as people may suffer from hunger. Thus, use of ethanol as fuel diverts agricultural products which could have been used as food to being used as fuel, reducing people's food. It can thus lead to artificial food deficiency (Lowi, & Carter, 2007).
The use of ethanol as fuel also leads to the need to clean a machine or an automobile regularly. Ethanol does not burn completely and thus leaves some elements unburned. These unburned compounds are deposited in the parts of the engine which may cause malfunctioning of the engine. As opposed to other sources of energy like electricity, there is more cleaning of the machines when using ethanol. This increases the cost of maintenance of the machine or the vehicle. Ethanol also decreases the lifespan of the machine or a vehicle because of its ability to make the engines dirty. The machine or the vehicle needs to be replaced after a shorter time as compared to the other sources of energy like electricity (Lowi, & Carter, 2007).
Ethanol is expensive to use as fuel when compared to other sources of energy such as electricity. An organization or a person using ethanol as the source of energy is likely to spend more money than they would have spent when using electricity. Ethanol is expensive and less effective compared to electricity and this makes it less appropriate for use on a large scale as a source of fuel. In using electricity, there is more efficiency and less wastage which makes it less expensive atlong last. In addition electricity, as an alternative source of energy is cheap and easily produced. Alcohol on the hand is not easy to produce and countries without oil deposits will have to import the crude oil and refine it making it more expensive (Lowi, & Carter, 2007).
Most governments in the world have been advocating for the use of fuel which causes less destruction to the environment. There is an increased concern on the impact of the use of ethanol as a source of fuel on the environment. The governments are campaigning for the use of green energy and reduce the use of petroleum products which lead to a high pollution. In addition, to ensure that the natural sources of ethanol are not exhausted, most of the governments have made policies which will allow the manufacturers of the fuels to blend ethanol with other fuels such as gasoline to reduce the amount of ethanol being used.