Alternative fuels essay

Alternative fuels can either be renewable or nonrenewable too. This is often confused since alternative fuels replace the conventional fuels which are nonrenewable in nature. Some examples of alternative fuels are wind power, hydropower, solar power, nuclear power, fuel cells, and biofuels. Hydropower, solar, wind and nuclear power are considered renewable sources of energy. However, biofuels can either be renewable or nonrenewable depending on the sources from which they are manufactured. Biofuels are fuels produced from organic matter which can either be solid, liquid or gaseous (Microsoft Encarta).

There are several methods as well as sources in the production of biofuels. Biofuels can either be produced from plants or from organic wastes generated from industrial, commercial, domestic and agricultural processes. Manufacture of biofuels can either be done by burning of dry organic wastes such as household refuse and wood, fermentation of wet wastes such as animal manure in the absence of oxygen to produce biogas, fermentation of high-carbohydrate plants such as sugarcane and corn to produce alcohols and esters and lastly by planting of fast-growing wood plants for fuel which is known as energy forestry (Microsoft Encarta).

Biofuels can take a number of forms such as biodiesel, bioethanol, biogas, biomass, vegetable oil and algal oil (http://www. habmigern2003. info). Such forms are classified due to the different methods of producing biofuels. To better improve the discussion of the paper, only biodiesel and bioethanol will be discussed in detail. Biodiesel is one of the first alternative fuels that were introduced to the public (http://www. habmigern2003. info). It can be synthesized by the mixing of an alcohol such as methanol and vegetable oil, animal fat or recycled cooking oil (NREL).

Biodiesel isn’t usually used in pure form. It is traditionally mixed with conventional diesel which is available in the market. Since biodiesel is produced from vegetable oils that can be easily replaced by growing plants needed for biodiesel, this biofuel is considered a renewable source. Undoubtedly, biodiesel comes from vegetable oils and organic wastes, however, such raw materials still need to be processed to be suitable for automobile diesel engines.

For biodiesel to be usable, these oils undergo a chemical process known as esterification which involves the conversion of the oil into fatty acid methyl esters through the aid of an industrial alcohol and a catalyst (EPA). These methyl esters that are produced during esterification are the utilizable substances that consists biodiesel. As has been discussed, biodiesel is conventionally used with a mixture of traditional diesel. There are different blends that are available for biodiesel consumers. The most common of which is B20 or 20% biodiesel and 80% common diesel (EPA).

Such blend of biodiesel is interestingly common since at this level, old diesel engines can be used thus not requiring a change in the automobile engine (AE). Moreover, such a blend is claimed to clean the engines of automobiles. The use of biodiesel has become widespread since the dawn of the oil crisis and threat of oil depletion in the world. Another very popular type of biofuels is bioethanol. Bioethanol is produced by the fermentation of carbohydrate-containing crops such as corn and potatoes (Buzzle).

It is the same as the ethanol that is produced in the manufacture of beer. Like biodiesel, it is also popularly used as an additive. Nevertheless, bioethanol is an additive to gasoline which can actually increase the octane rating of the gasoline to which it is added (NREL). Although bioethanol burning also produces carbon dioxide which is emitted into the atmosphere, it is considered as carbon neutral. This means that the carbon dioxide it emits does not add to the greenhouse gases which are trapped in the earth’s atmosphere.

Burning bioethanol recycles carbon dioxide since the carbon dioxide it emits into the air is compensated for by the carbon dioxide that was consumed by the plants from which bioethanol was produced (http://www. habmigern2003. info). Thus, the over-all effect is that no carbon dioxide is emitted into the atmosphere. Bioethanol can also be manufactured by the use of cellulose which is abundant in most plants (Buzzle). Nevertheless, researches are still under way regarding the production of ethanol from cellulose.