Alternative Energy essay: Renewable Sources
Title: Hydrogen fuel cells and ethanol
Within the course of recent decades, scientists are considering the application of alternative energy sources to save the actual capacity of energy. This is done in a reasonable economic and environmentally friendly manner to face many global challenges related to the rising consumption of global resources. Alternative energy sources are not based on splitting of atoms or burning of fossil fuels.
This approach actually excludes otherwise atmospheric pollution from nuclear waste by-products and burning fossil fuels. Hence, the alternatives that produce less significant impact on the environment include: solar energy, wind power, geothermal and hydroelectric resources. In particular, this argumentative essay concerns hydrogen fuel cells and ethanol (as America’s next alternative fuel) and discusses the advantages and disadvantages of hydrogen fuel cells.
1. Hydrogen fuel cells
The well-developed economies like the US consider hydrogen as a source of great environmental potential since this clean energy fuel significantly reduces economic dependence on imported energy sources. Therefore, the US deems hydrogen as the future alternative to gasoline; however the issue requires a lot of effort. Initially, the main issue on the agenda concerns facilities needed to make, store and move hydrogen. Furthermore, economical fuel cells, appropriate technologies, innovative solutions and eco-oriented educational programs are the key prerequisites of the coming transformational process in the USA.
At present, the US produces more than 9 million metric tonnes of hydrogen, which is enough to power up to eight million households or 30 m. vehicles. However, for the time being, hydrogen is mostly applied for the industrial purposes, including metallurgy, refining, and food-processing. The overwhelming majority of overall amount of hydrogen production covers only three states: Louisiana, California, and Texas.
The primary user of hydrogen as an energy fuel is NASA within the framework of its space program. Specifically, fuel cells (hydrogen batteries) are applied to power electrical systems of the shuttle. Hydrogen fuel cells are used as efficient means to make electricity. However, the construction of such large batteries (which application excludes power lines) is still expensive to build, whereas smaller fuel cells are actively applied to power electric cars.
Alternatively, fuel cells are also actively applied as emergency power sources in hospitals and remote locations. In addition, portable fuel cells are available to power laptops, cell phones, and military devices. About 500 vehicles (automobiles and buses) in the USA are hydrogen-fueled. Electric motors that use using a fuel cells store hydrogen gas and convert the hydrogen into electricity for the motor. Such vehicles are deemed as exclusively eco-friendly since they do not pollute the surrounding environment. The issue high on the forthcoming agenda concerns the construction of re-fuelling stations available to power hydrogen cars (Energy Information Administration, 2008).
Ethanol fuel is widely applied as a biofuel alternative to gasoline used in vehicles. Ethanol is easily manufactured and processed made from ordinary crops, including corn and sugar cane. Further main advantage is that ethanol is a renewable resource and can be used immensely. Most US cars therefore apply gasoline-ethanol blends reducing the levels of hazardous emissions in the atmosphere (Goettemoeller and Goettemoeller, 2007).
Furthermore, bio-ethanol is manufactured mainly to replace fossil fuels in vehicles. Concerns relate to the large amount of arable land required for crops, as well as the energy and pollution balance of the whole cycle of ethanol production. To this end, International Energy Agency states that cellulosic ethanol fuels will have enormous economic and ecological effect in the foreseeable future. At that, cellulosic ethanol actively resists cellulose fibers, and widely applied to generate ethanol in the United States (The Worldwatch Institute, 2007).
However, the widest application of ethanol is fuel additive and motor fuel. Namely, ethanol produced in Brazil is featured by high carbon sequestration capabilities, and therefore climate change is combated. For the time being, there is no 100% pure ethanols approved as a motor vehicle fuel in the US. Ethanol is therefore used as an additive to gasoline to reduce ground-level ozone formation through reducing hydrocarbon emissions and volatile organic compound, carcinogenic benzene and particulate matter emissions.
Overall, for the time being, saving energy and cutting emissions are two primary concerns challenged by the developed economies considering the overall call for the sustainable development in the world. Therefore the US is considering hydrogen and ethanol as effective alternative energy sources in the foreseeable future.
Energy Information Administration, 2008, Hydrogen Energy, (4 pages) 15 Nov, 2008 http://www.eia.doe.gov/kids/energyfacts/sources/IntermediateHydrogen.html
Goettemoeller, J., & Goettemoeller, A (2007), Sustainable Ethanol: Biofuels, Biorefineries, Cellulosic Biomass, Flex-Fuel Vehicles, and Sustainable Farming for Energy Independence, Praire Oak Publishing, Maryville, Missouri,
The Worldwatch Institute (2007), Biofuels for Transport: Global Potential and Implications for Energy and Agriculture, Earthscan Publications Ltd., London, U.K.,