April 3, 2008

Alternative Fuels Research

Golden Gate School of Feng Shui

Submitted by Christopher Johnson 1/11/08

General Research comments: There is so much information regarding all the alternative fuels available that I decided it would be useful to include only the major pros and cons highlights’ about each fuel in this paper. I definitely recommend that people do deeper research if they have a passion for this topic. The research sources used to create this paper are listed with each fuel type.

Type: E-85 (Ethanol)

Description: A clean burning, high-octane, fuel produced domestically from corn, sugar and other crops.

Pros: Produces less greenhouse gas emissions than conventional fuels. Domestically produced, helps to reduce dependence on foreign fuels.

Cons: Large amount of land is required to produce crops; the process to create the Ethanol requires energy (i.e. electricity), which will offset some of the positive effects of using this fuel. Some recent developments may improve the process (I.e. using fuels specific crops such as switchgrass). Currently combined with regular gasoline.

Resources: Wikipedia.org; ethanol.org, fueleconomy.gov

Type: Bio-diesel; Renewable Diesel

Description: Bio-diesel is a fuel composed of mono-alkyl esters of a long chain of fatty acids derived from vegetable oils and animal fats. Renewable Diesel if a fuel produced from biological material using a process called ‘thermal depolymerization’.

Pros: Usually produces less air pollutants than petroleum based diesel; made from renewable resources; helps local economy and reduces dependence on foreign oil.

Cons: Produces 10% more Nitrogen Oxide than petroleum based diesel fuel; Long term effects on greenhouse causing gases are unclear at this time – Net-lifetime carbon dioxide emissions can differ widely between fuels depending upon production methods of the source vegetable oils and processing methods employed in their creation.

Resources: Wikipedia.org, biodiesel.org, fueleconomy.gov

Type: CNG (Compressed Natural Gas)

Description: Gaseous fossil fuel consisting mostly of methane but can contain significant quantities of ethane, propane, butane and pentane. It is found in oil fields, natural gas fields, coal beds (as coal bed methane).

Pros: Generates less air pollutants and greenhouse gases; 99% of CNG used in the U.S. comes from domestic sources. Current vehicles can be converted to use CNG by purchasing a fairly inexpensive conversion kit. Creates less wear and tear on engine parts when used properly.

Cons: It must undergo extensive processing to remove almost all other components, besides methane, before it can be used as a fuel. Highly combustible. As demand for CNG increases, we will need supplies from foreign countries, which will increase our dependence on foreign fuels again. CNG Stations are not widely available in the U.S. yet

Resources: Wikipiedia.org; energy.ca.gov; fueleconomy.gov; Indiacar.com

Type: Propane (LPG)

Description: Also called liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), Propane is a three-carbon alkane, normally a gas, but compressible to a liquid that is transportable. Can contain small amounts of propylene, butane and butylenes; odorant ethanethiol is added so people can easily smell the gas if there’s a leak. Also known as ‘Autogas’ in other countries.

Pros: Domestically produced; abundant and generates less harmful air pollutants and greenhouse gases. Creates less wear and tear on engine parts.

Cons: Not as clean as natural gas; propane is heavier than air; if a leak occurs in the system, it can pose a great risk of an explosion. Propane stations are not widely available in the U.S. yet.

Resources: Wikipedia.org; fueleconomy.gov; usepropane.com

Type: Hydrogen (Fuel Cell)

Description: Hydrogen can be produced domestically from fossil fuels (such as coal), nuclear power, or renewable resources such as hydropower. A fuel cell is an electrochemical device that combines hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity without combustion.

Pros: Fuel cell vehicles powered by pure hydrogen emit no harmful air pollutants; the only byproducts are heat and water. The fuel cell is highly efficient – two to three times more efficient than burning fuel. Fuel cells operate silently so they reduce noise pollution as well.

Cons: The process for creating fuel cells that use fossil fuels, nuclear power etc. as their source of energy, can be dangerous to the environment and can greatly reduce the positive effects and benefits of using fuel cells. The technology is still relatively new and the cost of producing fuel cells is cost prohibitive at this time.

Resources: Wikipedia.org; fueleconomy.gov; fuelcells.org

Type: Photovoltaic (PV) Cell / Solar Power

Description: PV Cell: Electric power obtained from solar panels on the surface of the vehicle. The PV cells convert solar energy directly into electrical energy.

Pros: No emissions; may assist hybrid cars with recharging batteries in the future.

Cons: New technology, currently not practical for day-to-day transportation; solar vehicles are mostly available for demonstration purposes.

Resources: Wikipedia.org; UMSolar.com; EAAEV.org


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