Saturday, May 30, 2009
Special to The TimesWe need energy for our bodies, our homes, our cars, and our work. Our bodies run on food, our children's toys run on batteries, our cars run on fuel, and our home runs on electricity and gas.
Food, batteries, fuel, gas and electricity all have their own long, potentially destructive process before we are able to use them. We are just beginning to realize how to change that process. There are alternative methods for powering our everyday needs. Renewable energy is one such alternative.
Currently, most of our energy is not renewable, meaning it is being mined or drilled from a finite source. Our power supply is mainly generated from coal and our fuel supply is mainly from petroleum.
Some renewable alternatives to traditional power sources such as coal, nuclear and gas would be solar, wind, hydro, and biomass. New achievements are being made into the cost and productivity of solar panels and wind turbines, making them some of the most popular choices for renewable energy. Biomass is a new energy source utilizing woody waste converted to gas at through combustion, pyrolysis, or digestion.
Transportation is a critical part of our American culture. Up until recently, fuel was an affordable expenditure, but with the prices of oil rising from unfriendly nations, we are all looking for new ideas on transportation.
There is an increase in sales in more fuel efficient vehicles and also biofuels. Biofuels are made from agricultural sources unlike petroleum based fuels, which is why they are considered renewable energy.
The two known biofuels are ethanol and biodiesel. Ethanol can be made from corn, potatoes, sugar cane, and even corn stalks. Alabama is agriculturally blessed with climate for sweet potato and sorghum, which are even more efficient than traditional ethanol feedstocks.
Vehicles can run on 10% ethanol (E10), but flex-fuel vehicles can run on up to 85% ethanol (E85). Biodiesel is made by chemically processing various oils or fats. Soybean, peanuts, canola, used fryer grease, animal fats, and even algae are just some possible feedstocks for biodiesel. All diesel engines can run on biodiesel with few problems....