Will Ethanol Actually Replace Gasoline?

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It's a widely accepted fact that the Earth only has a limited amount of oil reserves, and that they are running out relatively quickly. While nobody really knows when they will expire, you can be sure that unless we are prepared for when it happens, they'll be some tough times ahead. It's obvious we need some kind of alternative energy. Unfortunately, with what we've developed so far, if oil were to run out tomorrow, the world would be plunged into chaos.

While there are plenty of energy sources being currently researched, one hopeful contender is ethanol. Ethanol is similar chemically to gasoline, so an ethanol based engine would give about the same horse power as a gasoline based engine. Although there are several good reasons to use ethanol, there are several drawbacks as well. In this article I'll talk about the pros and cons of using ethanol.

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.

One more powerful benefit of using ethanol as our main source of fuel is that it is clean burning. No carbon emissions, no pollution, no greenhouse gasses. Is it really possible to have an unlimited supply of clean burning energy?

Sadly, we're not quite there yet. As it stands now, creating ethanol takes time and energy. The corn has to be planted, grown, fertilized, harvested, and converted into ethanol. For one gallon of ethanol to be created, it takes about a gallon and a quarter of gasoline. If a business operated this way, they would quickly go broke.

One more major negative is that for every acre of corn devoted to ethanol, that's an acre of corn that is not being turned into food. And with the world food supply just barely enough to meet demand, the world needs every acre it can get to grow food. Setting aside thousands of acres to grow ethanol doesn't make much economic sense at this point.

So what's the solution? Obviously, there needs to be more work done in order to just break even with ethanol. When it takes a half gallon of ethanol to produce a gallon of ethanol, then it will be time to slowly convert farmland to fuel producing plants. But only if the supply of food for the world is sufficient. In order to do this, a slow approach is best.

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