The use of alternative fuels to replace petroleum has grown considerably through the years, as nations like Brazil are trying to be self-sufficient in their energy needs. Ethanol made from crops is said to be cleaner than burning fossil fuels, and would contribute less to the problem of global warming. However, several issues remain with the ethanol debate. There is one thing I am quite certain though. The U. S. cannot replace gasoline completely in its cars since it uses so many of them.
The eco-friendly effects of using ethanol as a fuel are well documented, for example, although it emits the same amount of carbon dioxide upon combustion like fossil fuels this CO2 comes from the air itself, therefore the combustion has zero net effect. Still, harvesting huge amount of crops for producing ethanol is energy inefficient and a waste of arable land. The effect on world food supply if ethanol was integrated to the economy in the U. S. as it is in Brazil would be very awful. Food prices would skyrocket, and there might be shortages of food everywhere.
It is not feasible to have the world’s energy supply and food supply come from the same source. Fossil fuels need to be replaced soon, but ethanol is not the technology to go with it. There are several sources of energy that need to be looked at and are much more promising than ethanol. Electric cars are making resurgence; however, they use electricity which most of the time is still produced by a fossil fuel burning power plant. Fuel cell cars have been demonstrated and might well be ready in the next 20 years.
The internal combustion engine has served humanity for several decades, I think it’s high time we replace it with a more 21st century design, not just replace the fuel it burns. Our environment and the world we live in is on the line. The response towards the ethanol debate is quite convincing, however I disagree with it on some points. First, ethanol doesn’t intend to replace gasoline fully, but just complement it. The surpluses in world food production are intended to cover up ethanol production for this purpose.
Second, although we both agree that fossil fuels need to be replaced, I tend to differ in that I think ethanol is at least the immediate future. Electric cars are far from perfect, and it is correct, as you said, it uses electricity from fossil fuel plants. Fuel cell or hydrogen powered vehicles may or may not be feasible, since right now they still are very expensive to produce. The time to act is now, not later, and ethanol is the most viable solution to the problems of the environment at the moment.