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Alternate Fuels

Essay by   •  February 17, 2011  •  Research Paper  •  1,888 Words (8 Pages)  •  1,575 Views

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Alternative Fuels

"Hydrogen cars... What's wrong with gasoline?" This is a question that many people have been asking themselves over the last decade. In the past gasoline, or an even broader subject, fossil fuels have been mankind's primary source of energy. Many people are beginning to think this may not be true for very much longer. The world is starting to revolutionize and move from the past to the future. Fossil fuels are a thing of the past because in today's time with an: infinitely growing population, an endless demand for energy, and a rapidly decreasing supply of fossil fuels, there must be an alternative to sustain our needs.

In order to understand fossil fuels and the need for an alternative, one must first know what fossil fuels are and where they came from. There are three major forms of fossil fuels: coal, oil and natural gas ("Fossil Fuels" par1). These were all created many millions of years ago during the Carboniferous period (360-286 million years ago) ("Energy Story" par 1). During this time period much the land was covered with swamps that contained ferns and other large leafy plants. As these trees and plants died, they sank to the bottom of the swamps and formed a spongy material called peat. Over time sediments were deposited on top of these layers of peat. As the layers of sediment increased so did the weight compressing the peat. Eventually all of the water was squeezed out and coal, oil, and natural gas remained ("Energy Story" par 2).

Since the first beginnings of man, humans have been adapting to their environments and have been using energy to improve their conditions. The first example of humans adapting was fire. Fire was the very first form of energy and it drastically improved the lives of many humans. It has provided a sense of security, a way to cook food, and a source of heat in cold

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environments. From the discovery of fire to the present day, there has been a constant evolution of the use of energy. As the world population increased and the human brain developed, the humans understanding of energy and the world around them increased, this allowed for more innovative and efficient means of meeting energy demands. The discovery of coal as an energy source credited the Chinese as the first to use fossil fuels as an energy source ("Energy Story" par 6). However, The Industrial Revolution marked the beginning of the large-scale use of fossil fuels. James Watt's invention of the steam engine set the Industrial revolution in motion ("History of Energy" par 4). From that point the evolution of energy moved rather quickly. Knowledge was combined from many sources such as the ancient Egyptians use of oil in lamps and the fire-worshiping Persians use of natural gas for the "eternal fires"(Energy Story" par 11). All of that lead to the world's current means of using fossil fuels a primary source of energy.

The need for an alternative is highly evident because of dwindling oil supplies and negativities of fossil fuels. Everyday on the televisions, in the newspapers, and over the radios there are reports of "sky-rocketing" gas prices and oil shortages overseas ("Oil as a finite resource" par1). What causes these shortages? There is a limited amount of fossil fuels available and an unlimited demand for energy. The reason for this being that fossil fuels are non-renewable resources meaning that they were formed over millions of years and cannot be replaced as fast as they are consumed ("Oil as a finite resource" par3). The demand for resources is directly proportionate to the size of the world's population and with today's rapidly increasing population the demand for resources has reached a record high. Energy being one of the main resources demanded. This in turn creates a demand for fossil fuels because they are needed to generate energy. This demand combined with a shortage has many effects on the consumer end

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of the market. High gas prices and the need for transportation is the pivotal point between many consumers' needs and wants. Although a consumer may want a big truck with a low average mpg, he or she may be forced to settle with a more economical sedan or light duty truck. Also the government has caused problems by imposing "gas guzzler" tax on bulky less efficient vehicles such as SUVs ("Hybrids Hailed, SUVs nailed" par 7). With these taxes the government is pushing the public towards an alternative.

There are many negatives that come along with using fossil fuels, gasoline in particular. For one, the internal combustion engine is very inefficient. In a typical engine the amount of mechanical energy produced from gasoline is only about twenty percent, the other eighty percent is wasted as heat energy ("McGee). Another negativity is the emissions produced during combustion. Oxides of nitrogen, Carbon Monoxide, and Hydrocarbons are the most directly harmful to the atmosphere although; excess buildups of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere are believed to be worsened by today's vehicles ("What you can do.." par 2). These emissions can have many adverse effects such as smog, acid rain, and global warming. With all of this in mind no wonder so much is being put into finding an alternative, but what are the alternatives?

In 2007, many years after the discovery of coal/fossil fuels as an energy source, scientists, politicians, and the general public have all acknowledged the diminishing

supply of fossil fuels and the need for an alternative. Over the past decade, however millions of dollars and thousand of man-hours have been devoted to developing a solution to this problem ("Fuel For The Future" par 11). After many attempts riddled with failure and disappointment, only a handful of technologically feasible and ergonomically supportable alternatives have been ascertained, out of that group: Hydrogen, Biodiesel, and Biomass are the most appropriate

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considering mankind's current technology and Earth's availability of resources ("Fuel Alternatives" par 16)

Hydrogen is a very clean burning fuel meaning emissions produced during combustion are very low. This mainly because it lacks many of the impurities contained in gasoline. Hydrogen is a zero emission fuel meaning that the byproducts produced are of so little quantities that they are insignificant ("Fuel Cell Vehicles" par1). Hydrogen

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