The Future for Ethanol


Ecological Considerations

The main sources of ethanol for use in fuel are starch (obtained chiefly from corn) and sugar (obtained from sugar cane). These are both renewable resources on the timespan of a human lifetime, unlike fossil fuels. Ethanol has proven its efficiency as a fuel for motor vehicles in many years of use in Brazil (about 10% of Brazil's total energy usage is provided by ethanol (source). Fuels composed of a blend of ethanol with more conventional hydrocarbons are becoming common in the United States, and are recommended by many automobile manufacturers.

Typical sources of ethanol in their unprocessed state - corn...

...and sugarcane

One possible negative impact of using ethanol as a fuel is the requirement for more and more arable land to grow the plants that make it - although less obvious than a forest of pumps on an oilfield, endless square kilometres of monoculture are disasterous for biodiversity. This is one reason for the initiatives discussed in section 9.2.2, moves to obtain the raw material for ethanol production from waste cellulose rather than fresh corn or sugarcane.