Contemporary World Issues

Alternative Fuels

The image above is a map of the world's main users of alternative fuels. Green is Liquid Propane Gas and Concentrated Natural Gas, Blue is Ethanol fuel, and Yellow is Synthetic Gasoline. (Note: this map contains only information from major alternative fuel users. It does not contain information about all alternative fuels or all users of alternative fuels.)

The worldwide fuel crisis, which enslaves the world’s economy with dependency on decreasing fossil fuel reserves and endangers the world’s environment, can only be solved by introducing new alternative fuels to international fuel infrastructures.  


With the vast number of alternative fuel options available, many how those options would work.  This is a list of common alternative fuel options that sepeople are unsure of the options and don’t always understand em appropriate for the current situation of the world’s fuel infrastructure. The links at the end of each section serve as both a source citation and a link to more infomation if you want to visit the sites.

Biodiesel is a form of diesel gasoline that is made with cleaner sources than ordinary petroleun diesel.  There are many sources that can be used to create biodiesel.  Biodiesel is registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and is legal for use at any blend level in both highway and nonroad diesel vehicles.

Most automobiles with diesel engines can run on biodiesel without any special modifications to the engine.  People interested in using biodeisel in their engines should check with the vehicle manugfacturer for information about reccomendations and the vehicle warrenty. Biodiesel users should make sure they buy thier biodiesel from a reputable commercial dealer.

Vehicles running powered by biodiesel have similar performance to those powered by conventional petroleum diesel. Since biodiesel has slightly less energy than petroleum diesel, drivers will experience better performance and lubrication but a small (2-8%) loss in fuel economy. Some biodiesel vehicles have some small problems starting at very low temperatures, but the problems are easily solved the same way as with conventional vehicles.

Biodiesel's main benefits are that it can reduce the US dependence on foriegn oil and produces significantly less greenhouse gases (in some cases it reduces greenhouse gas production up to 50%)In addition, biodiesel reduces emissions of carbon monoxide, particulate matter, sulfates, and hydrocarbon and air toxics emissions.

Biodiesel Compared to Petroleum Diesel

Domestically produced from non-petroleum, renewable resources
Can be used in most diesel engines, especially newer ones
Less air pollutants (other than nitrogen oxides) and greenhouse gases
Safer to handle
Use of blends above B5 not yet warrantied by auto makers
Lower fuel economy and power (10% lower for B100, 2% for B20)
Currently more expensive
More nitrogen oxide emissions
B100 generally not suitable for use in low temperatures
Concerns about B100's impact on engine durability 

Ethanol (Most Common Type is E85)
While pure ethanol is rarely used for transportation fuel, there are several ethanol-gasoline blends in use today. E85 is a blend of 85 percent denatured ethanol and 15 percent gasoline. In certain areas, higher percentages of gasoline will be added to E-85 during the winter to ensure that vehicles are able to start at very cold temperatures.

E85 cannot be used in a conventional, gasoline-only engine. Vehicles must be specially designed to run on it. The only vehicles currently available to U.S. drivers are known as flex fuel vehicles (FFVs), because they can run on E85, gasoline, or any blend of the two. Much like diesel fuel, E85 is available at specially-marked fueling pumps. Today, nearly 700 fueling stations offer it.

In general, E85 reduces fuel economy and range by about 20-30 percent, meaning an FFV will travel fewer miles on a tank of E85 than on a tank of gasoline. This is because ethanol contains less energy than gasoline. Vehicles can be designed to be optimized for E85--which would reduce or eliminate this tendency. However, no such vehicles are currently on the market. The pump price for E85 is often lower than regular gasoline; however, prices vary depending on supply and market conditions.

Much of the increased interest in ethanol as a vehicle fuel is due to its ability to replace gasoline from imported oil. The United States is currently the world's largest ethanol producer, and most of the ethanol we use is produced domestically from corn grown by American farmers.

E85 also provides important reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. When made from corn, E85 reduces lifecycle GHG emissions (which include the energy required to grow and process corn into ethanol) by 15-20% as compared to gasoline. E85 made from cellulose can reduce emissions by around 70 percent as compared to gasoline.

Using E85 also reduces carbon monoxide emissions and provides significant reductions in emissions of many harmful toxics, including benzene, a known human carcinogen. However, E85 also increases emissions of acetaldehyde--a toxic pollutant. EPA is conducting additional analysis to expand our understanding of the emissions impacts of E85.

Advantages & Disadvantages of E85
Domestically produced, reducing use of imported petroleum
Lower emissions of air pollutants
More resistant to engine knock
Added vehicle cost is very small
Can only be used in flex-fuel vehicles
Lower energy content, resulting in fewer miles per gallon
Limited availability
Currently expensive to produce 

Hydrogen is being aggressively explored as a fuel for passenger vehicles. It can be used in fuel cells to power electric motors or burned in internal combustion engines (ICEs).

It is an environmentally friendly fuel that has the potential to dramatically reduce our dependence on foreign oil, but several significant challenges must be overcome before it can be widely used.

Produced Domestically. Hydrogen can be produced domestically from several sources, reducing our dependence on petroleum imports.
Environmentally Friendly. Hydrogen produces no air pollutants or greenhouse gases when used in fuel cells; it produces only NOx when burned in ICEs.

Fuel Cost & Availability. Hydrogen is currently expensive to produce and is only available at a handful of locations, mostly in California.
Vehicle Cost & Availability. Fuel cell vehicles are currently far too expensive for most consumers to afford, and they are only available to a few demonstration fleets.
Onboard Fuel Storage. Hydrogen contains much less energy than gasoline or diesel on a per-volume basis, so it is difficult to store enough hydrogen onboard a vehicle to travel more than 200 miles. 

Compressed Air
This is a relatively new idea that is gaining ground in the world of alternative fuels.  In this method of powering vehicles, the engine is powered by compressed air moving the pistons, instead of the traditional internal combustion method.  A company named Zero Pollution Motors is planning to introduce a Air Car model in the United States in 2009 or 2010, with a compressed air engine developed by the French-based company, Motor Development International.  Below is a picture of the air car model that Zero Pollution Motors is planning to introduce to the United States.
(More Information)

International Efforts to Introduce Alternative Fuels


The European Union (EU) is one of the significant governing bodies that has realized the need for the introduction of alternative fuels to the transportation fuel infrastructure.  Biofuels has become the main focus of the EU’s transportation committee studies and policies involving alternative fuels.  In 2007, the EU created a policy goal having 10% of the transportation fuel in each member country come from biofuels by the year 2020.

Europe has a good reason for being concerned with lowering the prices of transportation fuels.  The following are selected average fuel prices in American Dollars per gallon in European countries:
Spain- $6.70
Ireland- $7.46
UK- $7.99
France- $7.99
Germany- $8.10



Japan is one of the most proactive countries on the subject of alternative fuels.  Almost 21 percent of Japan’s vehicles are hybrid vehicles such as the Toyota Prius.  Since 1973, the country has decreases their oil import rate by about 16%.  The rest of the world should learn from the Japanese government’s initiative on this crucial topic.

United States

The United States has created several incentives and laws to help introduce alternative fuels into the national transportation fuel infrastructure.  The individual laws and incentive programs are too numerous to list here.  Follow the citation link at the bottom of this paragraph for more information. (More Information)


Germany, in the spirit of going green, has taken the necessary steps to creating a large scale infrastructure change by planning to introduce a fuel infrastructure change throughout the entire city of Berlin.  The project, called “e-mobility Berlin”, will provide electric cars and over 500 electric charging stations across the entire city.  While electric cars are sometimes a hassle and not completely appropriate for the American driving style, the United States and other countries around the world can learn from Germany’s example of finally realizing the need for wide-spread changes to the fuel infrastructure to make alternative fuels possible.


1.) "Alternative Fuels for Transport". Euractiv. 9/22/08 <>.
2.) "Biodiesel Smartway Grow and Go". US Environmental Protection Agency. 9/10/08<>.
3.) "Biodiesel". US Department of Energy. 9/10/08<>.
4.) "Daimler Technology & Innovation". Daimler. 9/23/08 <>.
5.) "E85 and Flex Fuel Vehicles Smartway Grow and Go". US Environmental    Protection Agency. 9/10/08<>.
6.) "Ethanol". US Department of Energy. 9/10/08<>.
7.) "Europe's Energy Portal". Europe's Energy Portal. 9/22/08 <>.
8.)Fiaola, Anthony. "Japanese Putting All Their Energy Into Saving Fuel". The Washington Post Foreign Service February 16, 2006: A01.
9.) "Hydrogen Fuel". US Department of Energy. 9/10/08<>.
10.) "Petroleum Topics: Alternative Transport Fuels". World Petroleum Council. 9/11/08<>.
11.) "Zero Pollution Motors- Air Car". Zero Pollution Motors. 9/10/08 <>.

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