Renewable sources for fuel are popping up everywhere. From corn to algae to trash, we have great new sources surfacing every day. Here is a broad view of pros and cons of corn, algae, and electricity.
Pros and Cons
Corn is one of the main ingredients of ethanol in the Untied States. According to energyrefuge.com, “Ethanol is an alcohol-based fuel made by fermenting and distilling crops that have been broken down into simple sugars. In 2004, ethanol production consumed about 11% of all US-grown corn.” And now with new government mandates and the growing interest in biofuels, this number is expected to grow.
- Uses homegrown crop and agriculture to make ethanol.
- Opportunity for farmers to buy into ethanol producing co-ops to make money on both sides of the fence – great for them.
- Allows America to be more self-sustaining.
- Clean burning and environmentally friendly.
- Takes as much energy to produce ethanol as it gives back.
- A huge water wasting process – it takes millions of gallons of water to make ethanol, much of which is not recycled.
- Using corn for fuel depletes what's available for food – and since about 75% of what we eat contains corn in some way, shape, or form, that's a challenge.
- The price of corn is going through the roof, which hurts the rest of the food chain, including other agricultural businesses that use corn to feed animals.
- We could never produce enough corn ethanol to replace fossil fuel oil.
Adolf Hitler was actually experimenting with algae for fuel during WWII, and in the 1970s, so was the Carter administration. The Aquatic Species Act also experimented with algae for fuel in the 1990s under the Clinton administration, but it was scrapped in 1996 because oil was so cheap at that time.
- 50% of an algae cell contains lipids (oil).
- Algae grow rapidly, replicating 3-4 times a day using sunlight.
- Algae actively remove carbon from the air. It’s one of the best in the world at doing this.
- When grown vertically, less space is needed, allowing for mass production on a continuous basis.
- Since algae replicate so often, half of an algae mass can be harvested one day for oil production, and by the next day, the half that was harvested is back! This allows year-round oil production, which can produce about 100,000 barrels of oil per year per acre.
- The water that is used can be recycled. Any leftovers from the extraction process can be used as clean fertilizer or animal feed. Algae can be grown anywhere there is sunlight.
- Although not new, growing algae for biofuel production is still in its infancy and much needs to be done to achieve the above "pros.” Very little cons with algae – many experts agree that algae IS the biofuel of the future.
Electric cars are not new, but are growing in popularity. They utilize an electric motor instead of an internal combustion engine and usually get their power from battery packs located inside the vehicle.
- Electric cars are 100% emission-free, having no polluting byproduct.
- Battery-powered electric cars, besides being cleaner, are more fuel-efficient, get better mileage, and have less moving parts to wear out.
- Limited range, long recharge times, or exorbitant costs associated with continual powering of the battery
- Even though the vehicle itself doesn’t release any emissions, the electricity used to recharge the car typically comes from a pollution producing power plant.
- There aren’t many charging stations, so it almost has to be used exclusively as a commuting vehicle.