Alternative Energy by Wynell Graves

By Wynell Graves

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Many cars and light trucks (a class containing minivans, SUVs and pickup trucks) are designed to be flexible-fuel vehicles (also called dual-fuel vehicles). In older model years, their engine systems contained alcohol sensors in the fuel and/or oxygen sensors in the exhaust that provide input to the engine control computer to adjust the fuel injection to achieve stochiometric (no residual fuel or free oxygen in the exhaust) air-to-fuel ratio for any fuel mix. In newer models, the alcohol sensors have been removed, with the computer using only oxygen and airflow sensor feedback to estimate alcohol content.

Two million tons of petroleum-derived ethanol are produced annually. The principal suppliers are plants in the United States, Europe, and South Africa. Petroleum derived ethanol (synthetic ethanol) is chemically identical to bio-ethanol and can be differentiated only by radiocarbon dating. Bio-ethanol is usually obtained from the conversion of carbon based feedstock. Agricultural feedstocks are considered renewable because they get energy from the sun using photosynthesis, provided that all minerals required for growth (such as nitrogen and phosphorus) are returned to the land.

After the CARB's ruling, among other criticisms, representatives of the US ethanol industry complained that this standard overstates the environmental effects of corn ethanol, and also criticized the inclusion of indirect effects of land-use changes as an unfair penalty to domestically produced corn ethanol because deforestation in the developing world is being tied to US ethanol production. The initial reference value set for 2011 for LCFS means that Mid-west corn ethanol will not meet the California standard unless current carbon intensity is reduced.

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