What is ethanol?

Ethanol can be chemically defined as a colorless, flammable, relatively hazardous chemical compound, which happens to have a rather distinctive incense-like odor. Normally, ethanol can be found in alcoholic beverages and or produced naturally by the body. On the molecular level, its chemical formula can be seen as C2H5OH.

Ethanol is often recognized as a bio-fuel alternative to the use of gasoline. However, ironically, it can be combined with gasoline in various concentrations leading up to pure ethanol; thus reducing air pollution in the process. Ethanol originates in the form of a crop, more specifically, corn.



In Brazil , ethanol has been utilized to generate enough energy to power vehicles. This is accomplished through the burning of hydrated ethanol (a combination of ethanol with a concentration of 93% and 7% water). Identified as a oxygenate additive and a subsequent substitute for substances like methyl t- butyl ether (MTBE), ethanol can be rather difficult to obtain from groundwater. When compared to the burning of fossil fuels, the use of ethanol appears to react fairly cleanly with oxygen. However, in the process of doing so, produces emissions of carbon dioxide and water. In fact, a recent study of the substance indicates that equal emissions of carbon dioxide can be observed- when compared to the use of coal and or natural gas- while on the contrary, ethanol results in lesser amounts of carbon monoxide emissions.


Controversial Issue at Hand:

Though available, in the sense of its abundance in the nature, a major setback troubling researchers regarding the usage of ethanol is its detrimental affects on the environment. In fact, during a study completed in 2002, scientists have noted that ethanol plants release fairly large amounts of VOC's (volatile organic compounds) then originally thought. Not to mention Fidel Castro's perspective on the topic. As opposed to utilizing the crops as a means for fuel, Castro intends to reduce poverty and thus, in order to do so, the corn crops should simply be recognized as food. Hence, his views along with the consequences of using such a resource are still being discussed at the moment.


Advantages of Ethanol Use

Disadvantages of Ethanol use

- Renewable Resource that can be collected in abundance

- If used as a fuel, there will not be enough resource to feed third world nations

- Reduces the amount of pollution emitted when using fossil fuels

- Studies have indicated that large amounts of VOC's are released when creating ethanol based products

- Reduces the costs of fuel

- Does not eliminate the presence of pollutants

- Can be generated rather quickly

- Lead to decline of vegetation and or deforestation

- When burned, ethanol releases less pollutants than fossil fuels.

- Ethanol has a lower energy content by approx. 30% than regular gasoline.
- Ethanol fires are less detrimental than gasoline-based fires. - Ethanol cannot be compared to gasoline based on gallon-to-gallon ratio simply because, as mentioned before, ethanol cannot provide the same energy content.
- Ethanol is a high-octane fuel, which means it's cleaner than diesel and gasoline.
- During ethanol plant construction, there were approx. 370 jobs created.

- Ethanol blends have been seen to reduce carbon monoxide emissions in automobiles by 10-30%