Ethanol is a colorless flammable liquid that has had great economic value for thousands of years. Well before the industrial age it was fermented from available resources and used for various purposes. It has long been used to raise the spirits by way of a tipple, but also has significant utility as a source of fuel, light and medication, among other things.
The substance is produced by a process of fermentation. Vegetable matter from timber, sugarcane, sorghum, corn and even grass is used. Each source produces a distinctive kind of ethanol and each process has slightly different economic characteristic.
In general ethanol is a way of harnessing the energy of the sun in an environmentally friendly way. One of the biggest problems facing the planet is carbon emission from industry and motor vehicles burning fossil fuels such as oil and gas. The increased use of biofuels can make a significant difference to the problem of pollution because less carbon is emitted when it is burned.
Obstacles in the way of switching from fossil fuels to biofuels are largely economic. Fossil fuels were once forests of vegetable matter but were converted to coal and oil over eons of time. They simply have to be pumped from underground lakes and refined for use as petrol. Biofuels need to go through extra steps. The sun’s energy is captured by crops that have to be planted, grown and harvested before the fermentation process begins.
The industrial world has been distorted by the use of fossil fuels. Some people fortunate enough to find themselves sitting on lakes of oil became obscenely rich without effort or ability. Meanwhile, hard working and economically capable people remained miserably poor. Vested interest in the motor industry discouraged moves away from oil driven engines.
When it was finally acknowledged that the move away from fossil fuels was inevitable valuable time had been lost. The human population and number of cars in existence made any switch to biofuels problematic. Production capacity was limited and the technology inadequate. There was an imbalance between economic needs and abilities.
Ethanol production is one factor in a complicated economic balancing act. The size of the growing world population creates the huge demand for fossil fuels which can still be pumped from the diminishing reserves for less than the cost of production. If the demand were to increase the balance would alter and upset a number of economic and Geo-political variables such as land use and market imbalances. Change is underway but the process must be gradual due to many imponderable factors.
More and more people are wanting to know more about Ethanol for various reasons. One reason is because bio ethanol is able to power certain vehicles.
The following has been added by the owner of this site; providing these links does not mean that either the owner of this site, or the author of the above, necessarily recommend all that may appear on the links provided.
Alcohol Fuel: A Guide to Making and Using Ethanol as a Renewable Fuel (Books for Wiser Living from Mother Earth News)
Global Warming or not, readily available solutions for transportation
What we do to the Earth, we do to ourselves.
Solutions for a planet running of empty
Alternative Energy Books
A primer for the “Food versus Biofuel” debate