Ethanol: the true green alternative?
By Thomas Ervin
With rising oil costs and environmental concerns, pressure has mounted on the motor industry to develop an alternative, greener fuel to power the world's vehicles. But would ethanol be a viable alternative to gasoline (gas)?
Ethanol is largely considered as an ecological alternative to gasoline. It is made from crops like sugarcane in Brazil and soybeans in the United States, and is significantly less polluting than gasoline because it does not produce sulfur dioxide or lead emissions and, more importantly, any carbon dioxide produced It can be compensated by growing more sugar cane. . Cars in the UK, for example, are currently able to run on about 10 percent ethanol in gasoline, but the corrosive effect of ethanol means that increasing levels above this can damage the engine if the necessary changes.Recent moves by Brazil to export biofuels to the European market on a larger scale have increased interest in ethanol as a possible replacement for gasoline. Since signing agreements with Sweden and Japan, Brazil is now interested in developing partnerships with British and European companies. In Brazil, ethanol is widely available and represents about 40 percent of fuel consumption and powers more than 50 percent of vehicles. After having spent the last 30 years refining ethanol production from sugar cane, Brazil has become the world's largest producer and exporter of ethanol.
The technology to create ethanol has been around since the 1920s, but production only took off in Brazil in the 1980s when the government looked for alternative sources in the wake of the oil crisis of the 1970s and rising oil prices. . During the 1980s, more than 75 percent of all motor vehicles and about 90 percent of automobiles ran on ethanol. But a drop inethanol distributorsprices and the end of government subsidies meant that ethanol lost its popularity for a time. However, rising oil prices pushed ethanol's popularity back up a couple of years ago, and now more than 50 percent of new cars in Brazil are FFVs (flexible fuel vehicles) that can run on pure gasoline, pure ethanol, or a mixture of the two.