November 1, 2007
The Other Options
How important is fuel? Well, if one is talking about fossil fuels, they are extremely
important, especially in America. However, the fact that fossil fuels are not being replaced quick
enough and that they are very polluting is leading more and more people to find other sources of
fuel. Ethanol, biodiesel, hydro and solar power are a few that will be examined in the following
paragraphs. Nonetheless, to develop a better understanding on the importance of the quest and
implementation of alternative fuels, one must know about the problem at hand. Fossil fuels are
good and bad, depending on who is asked and/or who is profiting.
Crude oil, coal, and natural gas are what constitute fossil fuels, natural gas being the
clean-burning one. According to Richard Wright, author of Environmental Science, “The
reasons crude oil, coal, and natural gas are called fossil fuels is that all three are derived from the
remains of living organisms.” (Wright, 313) It takes a very long time for the remains to get
compacted enough to make fossil fuels and America is playing a big part in the depletion of their
reserves. Hence, by using many fossil fuels, America is also contributing to a lot of pollution;
crude oil and coal is cheap and easy to get which would be why the U.S. is relying so much on
them as a main fuel source. As stated by Wright, “Because the United States is the world’s
leading producer of green house gases and also far outpaces other countries in per capita
consumption, what we do will profoundly affect not only our own security, but that of the entire
planet.” (Wright, 324) This is where the investigation starts to find which alternatives are better
than others are what might work or not, and whether it is worth it.
An alternative fuel classified as a Biofuel is called Ethanol or ethyl alcohol, which is
becoming more popular in America. As Wright explains, “Ethanol is produced by the
fermentation of starches or sugars.” (Wright, 370) The main source, at this point, that is being
used to supply what is needed to make Ethanol is corn in the U.S. A positive to this alternative
fuel is that the corn can be replaced quicker than fossil fuels. However, corn is hard on the soil,
so that could potentially lead to some issues if Ethanol became the only source of fuel. More
corn will be used and America only has so much room to grow it, that eventually prices will go
up. Katherine Peters, author of Fields of Dreams, states, “As more U.S. corn is diverted to
domestic ethanol production, less likely will be sold on the world market, driving up prices
internationally.” (Peters, 21) In addition, corn has to be transported, so unless the trucks run on
a clean-burning fuel, there is still going to be pollution.
The other Biodiesel fuel is just Biodiesel fuel or used vegetable oil, which burns cleaner
than fossil fuels but does emit some greenhouse gasses. Laura Bies, author of The Biofuels
Explosion: Is Green Energy Good for Wildlife, claims, “A recent study by the National Academy
of Sciences found that ethanol from corn generates 25% more energy than is required to produce
it, whereas soy biodiesel generates 93% more. And, whereas ethanol from corn emits 12% less
greenhouse gas than gasoline, biodiesel from soybeans emits only one third as much greenhouse
gas as does ethanol.” (Bies, 1204) One can clearly see that Biodiesel fuel would even be better
for energy production and the environment compared to Ethanol.
Bies, Laura. quot;The Biofuels Explosion: Is Green Energy Good for
Wildlife?.quot; Wildlife Society Bulletin 34(2006): 1203-1206.
Peters, Katherine. quot;Fields of Dreams.quot; Government Executive
Wright, Richard. Environmental Science. 10th. Upper Saddle
River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2008.