Global warming has been cited as a likely source for melting glaciers in Montana’s Glacier National Park and parts of the 3,000-year-old Herbert Glacier in Alaska. Some scientists are suggesting that the receding glaciers serve as an early warning system for the Earth. Many people feel overwhelmed by the concept of global warming, but are unsure of what they can do to help.
The common theme to helping protect the environment suggests the need for cleaner fuel, better fuel efficiency, and renewable fuel sources. Many of the common alternative fuels are contributing to all three of those suggestions. Below are a few examples of the most common forms of alternative fuels and their uses.
The use of 100 percent biodiesel can reduce carbon dioxide by more than 75 percent compared to petroleum diesel. Blended 20 percent biodiesel (B20) can reduce the carbon dioxide emissions by 15 percent. The use of biodiesel produces less particulate matter, carbon monoxide, and sulfur dioxide emissions, which are all classified as air pollutants under the Clean Air Act. A U.S. Department of Energy study showed that biodiesel has a positive energy balance. For each unit of energy needed to produce a gallon of biodiesel, 3.24 units of energy are gained.
Ethanol is a renewable, biodegradable fuel source, and it also contains 35 percent oxygen, which makes it burn more cleanly and completely than gasoline. Ethanol reduces harmful tailpipe emissions of carbon monoxide, particulate matter, oxides of nitrogen, and other ozone-forming pollutants. Blends are capable of reducing carbon monoxide emissions in vehicles by 1030 percent. When compared to conventional gasoline, the use of 10 percent ethanol blends can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 1219 percent.
Hydrogen has been a key element for designing fuel cell technologies. The use of hydrogen produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions, improved air quality, and increased energy efficiency. While there are no fuel cells currently available for sale in the United States, there are many types of fuel cell vehicles in demonstration and development including light-duty vehicles by most major auto manufacturers, medium-duty vehicles, and buses.
Although global warming is a controversial issue, one possible solution is simple: the use of renewable, alternative fuels.