- Ethanol and biodiesel are biofuels which are used in combination with petroleum fuels to burn cleaner
- Biodiesel feedstock can be soybeans, algae, fungus, or others
- Cellulosic ethanol is made from plant cellulose instead of corn and other food crops
Ethanol and biodiesel are being thought of as the new eco friendly fuels for vehicles, but is this true? Will these fuels ever be able to completely replace the petroleum based fuels that are commonly used right now? Currently, ethanol and biodiesel are added to the gasoline and diesel fuels in varying percentages. Biodiesel has shown the capability for completely replacing diesel fuel without the need for expensive conversion equipment or other extra steps needed. The problem with biodiesel is that just like diesel fuel, it does have some limitations. These fuels are not ideal for temperature extremes, especially cold temperatures. Biodiesel feedstock can be found in plants like soybeans, algae, and even a specific fungus which grows on trees. Cellulosic ethanol is produced using corn and other plants which provide the cellulose for the fermentation process.
Biofuels have the ability to replace petroleum fuels at some point in the future, but that point is still some time off and it is not clear whether this will occur or not. Most vehicles that use ethanol and biodiesel do so in combination with traditional petroleum fuels. There is an ethanol blend called E10 that has ten percent ethanol mixed with ninety percent gasoline, and this mix has been used in many states with success. Biodiesel was recently used as part of the fuel in a jet for a test flight, showing that this fuel can be used in almost any vehicle and can even be used as jet fuel, which requires high amounts of energy.
Ethanol and biodiesel may replace a large part of petroleum based fuels when it comes to vehicles of all types, but technology must advance further before these biofuels can be used exclusively instead of with petroleum based fuels. Biodiesel can be corrosive to some parts, like hoses, and more maintenance or special parts may be required to prevent this problem. The carbon emissions and environmental damage that petroleum based fossil fuels produce mean that a change must be made. Whether this change ends up being a move to ethanol and biodiesel fuel exclusively remains to be seen. There is a potential for biofuels to be used without any other fuel sources at some time, and more research into biofuels can make this happen faster.
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