Cleo Arnold - Revisions to Portfolio 2
Contribution to Book Wiki
With gasoline prices increasing each year and the possibility of running out of oil in the near future, it is time to start devoting more time into perfecting alternative fuels to power our cars and other machines. Because this is soon going to be a huge part of our lives, it is important to currently understand what types of alternative fuels are avaliable today.
Natural gas is a fossil fuel usually found either above or below crude oil. The main difference between natural gas and gasoline is that natural gas is naturally in a gaseous state whereas gasoline is a liquid. Natural gas is comprised mostly of methane, it is one of the cleanest burning alternative fuels and it can be used in the form of compressed natural gas (CNG) or liquefied natural gas (LNG) to fuel cars and trucks .In the 19th century natural gas could only be used in certain areas due to the fact that it was difficult to transport, but, with the advent of the leak-proof pipeline coupling from 1927 to 1931, laborers constructed more than 10 major natural gas transmission systems in the United States. These pipelines made natural gas a practical energy source for many applications, most commonly for use in households. Automotive companies have begun to design vehicles which run off natural gas; these cars are known as natural-gas vehicles (or NGVs). There are over 1,300 natural gas fueling stations located in the United States. In fact, for owners of the natural-gas-powered Honda Civic a personal natural gas pump is included with the purchase of the car. The pump uses a home's existing natural gas lines and can be installed for $500 to $1500.
The Honda natural-gas powered Civic
The Phill Home Refueling Appliance
The biggest advantage of NGVs is that they reduce environmentally harmful emissions. In fact, natural-gas vehicles can achieve up to a 93% reduction in carbon monoxide emissions, 33% reduction in emissions of various oxides of nitrogen and a 50% reduction in reactive hydrocarbons when compared to gasoline vehicles. Also, natural gas is convenient and abundant and costs on average one-third less than gasoline at the pump does. Although there are many benefits to using natural gas, there are a few deficits as well. Firstly, NGVs have a limited driving range, which is typically about half that of a gasoline-powered vehicle. For example, Honda's natural gas Civic, the Civic GX, can go up to 220 miles without refueling. A typical gasoline-powered Civic can go approximately 350 miles without refueling. Furthermore, natural gas, like gasoline, is a fossil fuel and cannot be considered a renewable resource. While natural gas reserves in the United States are still sizeable, they are not infinite. Some critics have predicted that there are enough natural gas reserves remaining to last another 67.1 years, assuming that the 2003 level of production continues. Will we have another oil crisis in 67.1 years if we switch to NGVs? Considering the amount of NVGs on the road today, it is quite possible that if we did switch over to natural gas we would run out much sooner than the postulated 67.1 years. According to the Natural Gas Coalition, “there are currently 130,000 NGVs on the road in the United States today and more than 2.5 million worldwide. To put this into perspective, consider that there were 142.5 million registered vehicles in 2001 -- which means gas-powered vehicles outnumber NGVs almost 1,100 to one in the United States. And yet more than 40 different manufacturers, including Ford, General Motors, Toyota and Volvo, currently produce NGVs” (Harris, B., 1998). If natural gas cannot overcome these problems, another source of alternative fuel will have to be found.
Ethanol is an alcohol-based fuel. This fuel can be made by fermenting and distilling starch crops, such as corn. In fact, one acre of corn can be processed into about 330 gallons of combustible ethanol. Ethanol can also be made from "cellulosic biomass" such as trees and grasses. There are two different gasses made with ethanol. E10 (also known as gasohol) is a blend of 10% ethanol and 90% gasoline. E10 is sold all over the country and all auto manufacturers approve the use of blends of 10% ethanol or less in their gasoline vehicles. About one-third of all gasoline sold in the United States contains some ethanol, but, this is still not enough to make a significantdifference. E85 is a blend of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline. This fuel is designed to be used in flexible fuel vehicles (FFVs), which are specially designed to run on gasoline, E85, or any mixture of the two. According to President Bush and proponents of E85 ethanol, this new fuel can help America end its dependency on foreign oil (Giametta, 1998).The U.S. Department of Energy says "vehicles fueled with E85 ethanol have lower carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide emissions than conventional gasoline or diesel vehicles. Ethanol is water soluble, non-toxic, and biodegradable. E85 ethanol contains far fewer potential contaminants than found in gasoline” (Giametta, 1998).
This cycle illustrates how plants, often corn, are turned into ethanol.
As with every fuel there are downfalls. To produce ethanol requires the use of non-renewable fossil fuels to plant, grow, and harvest the crops and operate ethanol refineries. Some critics argue that, considering the energy costs of growing corn and converting it to ethanol, it takes far more energy to produce ethanol than the ethanol itself actually yields. Also, ethanol production diverts corn that could be used to feed animals and people, thus shrinking the supply of corn and raising the price of food (Giametta, 1998). There are about 100 corn to fuel refineries currently in the United States, which is a surprisingly high number of refineries considering that of the “roughly 250 million cars, trucks, SUVs, and minivans on America's roads, only about six million are capable of burning E85 ethanol. About half of these E85 ethanol flex-fuel vehicles are in commercial or government fleets” (Giametta, 1998). Although President Bush believes the use of ethanol can reduce our dependence upon foreign oil and help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, it is still unclear whether the positive aspects of ethanol outweigh the negatives.
Salt water may indeed be the next candidate for alternative fuel. A 63-year-old named John Kanzius was attempting to find an alternative method to chemotherapy. Kanzius created what he called the radio frequency generator (RFG) which essentially generates radio waves and concentrates them onto a specific area. During a demonstration of the RFG, an observer noticed that it was causing water in a nearby test tube to condense. After a few more experiments, Kanzius concluded that the RFG could ignite and burn salt water. The flame could reach temperatures as high as 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit and burn as long as the RFG was on and aimed at it.
Is this really burning?
So why doesn’t the ocean explode when the sun light hits it or a burning match is thrown into the water? “It all has to do with hydrogen. In its normal state, salt water has a stable composition of sodium chloride (the salt) and hydrogen and oxygen (the water). But the radio waves from Kanzius' RFG disrupt that stability, degrading the bonds that hold the chemicals in salt water together. This releases the volatile hydrogen molecules, and the heat output from the RFG ignites them and burns them indefinitely” (Clark, 1998). So could salt water really be our next source of fuel? Well, there is one huge drawback, efficiency. The energy input to energy output ratio of salt water is extremely low. Basically, while the RFG produces a flame that burns stably, the amount of energy it puts out is less than the amount of energy needed to power the RFG. Any energy that comes out of the salt-water flame cannot be considered a source of power, only a manifestation of the energy being put into it. Sadly, this makes the possibility that the RFG could produce a real, viable source of fuel very unlikely in the near future (Clark, 1998). CArnold 16:38, 22 February 2008 (EST)
Harris, B. (1998). How Natural-gas Vehicles Work. Retrieved February 21, 2008, from http://auto.howstuffworks.com/ngv.htm.
Natural Gas. (n.d.). Retrieved February 21, 2008, from http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/bifueltech.shtml.
Giametta, C. (1998). How E85 Ethanol Flex Fuel Works. Retrieved February 21, 2008 from http://auto.howstuffworks.com/how-e85-ethanol-flex-fuel-works1.htm.
Clark, J., (1998). Could Salt Water Fuel Cars. Retrieved February 21, 2008 from http://auto.howstuffworks.com/salt-water-fuel.htm.
Salt Water as an Alternative Fuel? Hi everyone, As I was researching for my book wiki post I can across the most amazing YouTube video. This inventor named John Kanzius was trying to invent a cure for cancer and accidentally discovered how to make salt water burn, yes water burn! The video is only about 2 minutes long its really interesting, what if one day we could just fill our cars up with water from the ocean? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QCBZ2JIz45Q
According to this article entitled |“How Biofuels Could Starve the Poor” from the May/June 2007 issue of Foreign Affairs written by C. Ford Runge and Benjamin Senauer, the production of ethanol fuel is taking away much needed food from the poor. On April 18, 1977, President Jimmy Carter called on the U.S. to use renewable energy. A series of tax breaks and subsidies also helped the effort but in spite of these measures, the United States has still become more and more dependent on imported petroleum. Currently, thanks to high oil prices and even more government subsidies, there are 110 ethanol refineries in operation in the United States and 73 more are under construction. When these projects are completed, by the end of 2008, the United States' ethanol production capacity will reach an estimated 11.4 billion gallons per year. “The industry's growth has meant that a larger and larger share of corn production is being used to feed the huge mills that produce ethanol. According to some estimates, ethanol plants will burn up to half of U.S. domestic corn supplies within a few years. Ethanol demand will bring 2007 inventories of corn to their lowest levels since 1995 (a drought year), even though 2006 yielded the third-largest corn crop on record”. In March 2007, the price of a bushel of corn soared to $4.38, the highest price in ten years. But not only is the price of corn rising, wheat and rice prices have also reached decade highs. This is because wheat and rice are frequently becoming substitutes for corn and also because planters are planting more corn (to refine into Ethanol) and less wheat and rice. In fact, filling the 25-gallon tank of an SUV with pure ethanol requires over 450 pounds of corn, which contains enough calories to feed one person for a year. “The World Bank has estimated that in 2001, 2.7 billion people in the world were living on the equivalent of less than $2 a day; to them, even marginal increases in the cost of staple grains could be devastating”. The article continues on to talk about how and why corn is the chosen plant for ethanol (as opposed to grass and wood chips, which humans obviously do not eat but can make ethanol) and it explains the huge part the corn and soybean lobbyists played in this movement. Overall, I began reading this article because I was curious about Ethanol and I wanted to know more but what I ended up finding out is that this is probably one of the worst alternative fuels to invest money in, and yet the government is pumping tax money into it without a second thought. What really bothered me was when the article basically stated that if things keep progressing the way they are, not only will we be paying more for our gasoline, but also more for most of our necessary food staples. That does not sound like progress to me!