Disadvantages of Ethanol

In theory, the disadvantages of ethanol are negligible. But in practice, the disadvantages of ethanol or more apparent. Though it is true that this is a renewable resource, and it is also true that making ethanol can be more eco-friendly, the disadvantages of ethanol are that it can also be just as harmful to the environment as gasoline. Though there is no doubt that the consumption of ethanol fuel is less harmful to the environment than gasoline, it is ethanol production that can cause greater environmental problems. It has been shown that in the production of corn ethanol, coupled with its consumption, can be as harmful or worse than the production and consumption of gasoline.

Research shows that cellulosic ethanol has more promise as a viable replacement (even if only partial) for gasoline then corn based ethanol. This kind of ethanol has less of the disadvantages of corn, since some waste products can be converted to fuel, and vegetation that can grow where food cannot can yield some of the greatest percentages of cellulose. Another way to mitigate the disadvantages of ethanol is to make ethanol via the 'gasification process', which basically can turn ANY kind of waste into ethanol fuel, though this may have a higher energy demand than cellulose based. Though this higher energy demand would be irrelevant if the waste products are still net positive on energy yield, and the disadvantages of ethanol of this type would only mean it would take more trash to net the same fuel.

More disadvantages of ethanol

More disadvantages of ethanol are tied to its production. There is no escaping the notion that eventually, a lot of land is going to be needed to fuel ethanol expansion. Land that may otherwise be used to feed humans will instead be used to feed ethanol cars. And since it will then cost resources to make ethanol, it will affect a rise in ethanol prices. Then there is the personal cost of e85 conversion. If your car is not compatible with e85 ethanol, it will cost anywhere from 500 to 1,000 dollars to get it converted. And if you get an ethanol still, its going to cost time or money (or both) for that. So, disadvantages of ethanol begin to accumulate rather quickly. Personal and business investments, strain on the extremely valuable resource that is land, potential damage to the environment from production... It gets to be a little discouraging, trying to come up with ideas to save the environment.

Nevertheless, the fact that gasoline is a non-renewable resource should dispel any ideas of favoring gasoline production over ethanol distillation. The point of this page is not to dissuade producers, consumers, and/or government from researching and employing ethanol because of ethanol disadvantages. Disadvantages of ethanol are far outweighed by the advantages. And as mentioned elsewhere, cellulosic ethanol can be made from trash and other 'useless matter'. It is likely that ethanol from trash will not eliminate oil demand completely, but it certainly wouldn't hurt to deplete that resource! And even if we eliminated all the cellulose rich surplus trash, and then additionally grew switchgrass on marginal land not suitable for crops, we still might not see ethanol supply meeting oil demand. Nevertheless, putting value into waste and marginal land by making use of it for fuel will certainly improve civilization, and it will reduce oil demand, which will buy us more time at the very least. And in order to best take advantage of this solution (be it partial or complete), the key is learning how to make ethanol efficiently. Though disadvantages of ethanol may exist, they do not merit a complete scrapping of the institution and if anything show us that we need to invest more time into research and development to overcome the disadvantages of ethanol. After all, it is a renewable resource, so if we don't get it right the first time around, there will fortunately be a second time... and a third...