Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Best for the Environment

As I have mentioned before, I interned over the summer at the EPA, which was an amazing experience. For the largest part of my employment there, I worked in mobile sources of the air department. So it's only natural that I would have to make a presentation on the different types of alternative fuels.

So here's a chance for me to take all of that and make a post.

Let me start with the most well known, E85.

E85 is short for 85% ethanol. Other types of ethanol blends include E10, 10% ethanol, and E100, only ethanol. Most cars made in the nineties and later can run on E10 because of standards set then for the automotive industries. In truth, there isn't a big difference between a car engine that can run on ethanol and one that can run on only gasoline. The biggest difference is the fittings and the lubricants used because ethanol has different erosive properties. So, is it really as good as everyone says? Not so much. Yeah, it's an alternative fuel source, but it doesn't have the energy density that gasoline has so you need more to go as far. It also emits more than gasoline does when it comes to volatile organic compounds, VOCs, and nitrogen oxides, NOX. Those are both precursors to ozone, which we don't like.

The next I'll talk about is liquefied petroleum gas, or LP gas. You may know it better when it comes out of a propane tank you use to run your gas burning grill. When a car uses it rather than gasoline, it is a lot different. Instead of normal gas tanks, the car has to be fitted with pressurized tanks that can end up being very large for what they carry. But LP gas is very high octane and runs very smoothly in a car. It also reduces all emissions, so we don't have to worry about ozone and smog when these cars are running around. I give two thumbs up for this fuel source except that there is practically no place to go fill a car up. Most LP gas cars aren't used in the US, and when it is it's for private fleets that have their own fueling stations.

The last alternative fuel source is my favorite and is called compressed natural gas, CNG. This is my favorite because of it's convenience. Just like is sounds, it is the same gas that heats the house. This fuel source is very much like LP gas in its drawbacks of giant tanks that don't carry much and the lack of fueling stations. There are also not many cars that are made that run on this fuel in the US. But it's cool because you can fill your car up overnight in your own garage. It also runs very cleanly, cutting emissions more that LP gas.

Overall, I think that, in order to bring a real change around in the US, we need a cultural change as well. People just aren't into making a new infrastructure so they can gas up their cars. Maybe we'll have change some day, but it'll take some time.

Thanks HowStuffWorks for a little content, but most came from previous knowledge.

Again, I'll have a picture for this posted later.

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