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Ethanol as an alternative to fuel

It will not be long before fossil fuels run out, so alternatives are actively sought. A possible alternative is ethanol (better known as alcohol). Ethanol belongs to biofuels, which means that it is made from biomass.

Ethanol is a fuel that can be obtained from sugar-rich crops such as sugar cane. The sugar is extracted from these crops and then left to ferment. This produces ethanol. As soon as the surplus water has been removed from the ethanol, it can be mixed with normal gasoline. You can mix ethanol with gasoline in many different proportions, but the most common is 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline.

A big advantage of using ethanol is that it emits no net CO2. When growing crops for ethanol production, the amount of CO2 emitted during combustion is absorbed. This makes ethanol CO2 neutral.

Furthermore, ethanol is not much more expensive than normal petrol. The prices of ethanol and petrol are roughly the same per liter. The disadvantage, however, is that you get less far on a liter of ethanol than on a liter of petrol. As a result, you end up slightly more expensive with ethanol if you look at the price per kilometer.

To be able to replace gasoline with ethanol, much more sugar crops have to be produced. It will be difficult to find enough space for all these crops. Another disadvantage is that these plants extract many nutrients from the earth, making the earth nutrient poor.

Much research remains to be done on ethanol before it can be a suitable substitute for gasoline. It is not yet possible to run cars on ethanol only. The ethanol must be mixed with gasoline to prevent the engine from wearing out too quickly. Furthermore, many cars that run on ethanol have difficulty starting when it is cold. 

We consume much more fuel than we will ever be able to make with ethanol. This means there will be a shortage in fuels. Ethanol also isn’t optimized enough to replace gasoline. Much research will have to be done and eventually we will run out of fossil fuels before we can even use ethanol. There may be some benefits to the use of ethanol, but the disadvantages just make it impossible to use it.

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