Alternative Fuels Help Fight High Gasoline Prices

Alternative fuels can be used as a gasoline alternative in some vehicles in America. These alternative fuels not only are cheaper for the consumer, they generally are cleaner burning and therefore more beneficial for the environment. These alternative fuels are biodiesel, compressed natural gas, electricity, ethanol, hydrogen, liquefied natural gas, methanol and propane.

Biodiesel, produced from renewable resources, such as soybeans or used restaurant grease is biodegradable, nontoxic, and easy to use and is virtually free of sulfur and aromatics. Biodiesel is easy to use, with no major modifications to diesel engines. Biodiesel is used either blended with petroleum or pure. Burning Biodiesel in a conventional diesel engine reduces unburned hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, and other emissions as compared to diesel fuel, creating a less harmful impact on human health. Types of Biodiesel range from pure Biodiesel to blends with diesel fuel up to 20% Biodiesel. This alternative fuel is available in many places throughout the United States. For a current list, visit www.biodiesel.org or call 800-841-5849.

Compressed Natural Gas (CNG), natural gas under pressure is clear, odorless, non-corrosive and used compressed to pressures above 3100 pounds per square inch. The positive aspects of natural gas are that production cost less and it burns cleaner than gasoline or diesel fuel. Commercial vehicles have been using CNG; these range from taxicabs to school buses. Vehicle owners now have the opportunity to refuel their CNG vehicles at home, if they use natural gas in their home. For more information on home refueling, visit www.myphill.com. The cost of CNG is generally about 40% less than gasoline.

Electric vehicles are powered by a battery that stores electricity. These batteries are either recharged by an on-board charger or plugged into an external charger. Electric vehicles have zero emissions, meaning that no tailpipe exhaust occurs. At one time, electric cars did not travel at speeds as high as gasoline or diesel powered cars did, but that has all changed now. Today, electric vehicles travel at the same speeds as well as provide the same safety and have the same performance capabilities as other fuel vehicles do. The differences do show on the amount of miles that the electric car travels between charge ups versus the miles the gasoline or diesel vehicle travels between fill ups. The electric vehicle will have to be recharged from 50 to 130 miles, depending on several factors.

Ethanol, or ethyl alcohol, is a very effective alternative fuel. It is produced from corn, which has been fermented and distilled. Generally, ethanol is used as a blend with gasoline in concentrations ranging from 5 to 10%. Today there is a market for E85, which is produced by blending 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline. This fuel is used in flexible fuel vehicles. Ethanol is also blended with diesel to produce E-Diesel and is used as aviation gasoline in small aircraft. The differences between gasoline and ethanol is that it takes 1/3 more ethanol to travel the same difference as gasoline. Today, all gasoline engines can use gasoline blended with up to 10% Ethanol, while E85 vehicles are built with special fuel system components.

Hydrogen, in its gaseous state, is colorless, odorless, tasteless, non-toxic and burns clean. Today, hydrogen is produced from natural gas through reforming. Reforming uses heat to separate hydrogen from hydrocarbons. Water and biomass are also used to produce hydrogen. Hydrogen used as a alternative fuel is found in fuel cells. Fuel cells produce electricity from a reaction between hydrogen and oxygen ion in a cell. When hydrogen is used as a fuel, water and heat are the by products. A fuel cell “stack” requires fuel, oxidant and coolant in order to operate. The gases must be humidified and the coolant temperature must be controlled. To achieve this, the fuel cell stack must be surrounded by a fuel system, fuel delivery system, air system, stack cooling system and humidification system. In the future, vehicles may have the ability to perform using pure hydrogen or a blend of hydrogen and natural gas. Vehicles using fuel cells are already in use, there just is not many of them available at this time. To find out more about hydrogen as an alternative fuel, visit www.cafcp.org and www.hydrogenhighway.ca.gov.

Liquefied natural gas (LNG) is the liquid form of natural gas, produced by cooling natural gas below its boiling point. LNG is clear, colorless, odorless, non-corrosive and non-toxic. LNG is transported from countries with large natural gas reserves, such as Algeria, Australia, Indonesia, Libya, Malaysia and Nigeria plus several more. This LNG is transported in double-hulled ships, specially designed for the low temperatures needed for LNG. LNG terminals are located in the United States in Everett, Massachusetts; Cove Point, Maryland; Elba Island, Georgia; Lake Charles, Louisiana; and Puenelac, Puerto Rico with plans for more terminals along the west coast. LNG must be stored in insulated storage tanks, capable of keeping the LNG at the temperatures needed. The cost of producing LNG is relatively low and LNG burns cleaner than diesel fuel. LNG has a longer driving range than most diesels; therefore, it is generally used in heavy-duty vehicles, classified as class8, refuse haulers, local delivery trucks and transit buses. For more information, visit www.eere.energy.gov/afdc/altfuel/natural_gas.html.

Methanol, or methyl alcohol, is another clean-burning liquid alternative fuel. Methanol is generally produced from natural gas, but can also be produced from coal and biomass crops, such as sugar cane. Although some vehicles are equipped to operate using M85 (85% methanol), most are not. Methanol does not have the backing to get it into the market as an alternative fuel as other fuels do, such as ethanol. For this reason, methanol is not a real viable alternative fuel.

Propane, also known as Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG), another alternative fuel, is known widely as the third most commonly used fuel, only behind gasoline and diesel. This alternative fuel is produced as part of natural gas processing and crude oil refining. Propane is removed when processing natural gas, before the natural gas enters a pipeline distribution system, while in a crude oil refining system; it is the first product at the beginning of the refining process. Propane fuel has been used in rural and farm settings for many years, as well as forklifts. Using propane can aid in vehicle maintenance costs, lower emissions and lower fuel costs. Vehicles have to be converted in order to use propane fuel.

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