Protecting our environment is more important than ever before. As our collective environmental concerns deepen, the need for long-term solutions sharply increases. Some hope has arrived in the form of alternative fuels that are less expensive, decrease our reliance on oil and contribute significantly less to air pollution.
California is already headed in the right direction by taking steps to tackle the problem with the California Energy Commission's Clean Transportation Program. Dedicated to the idea of clean transportation achieved through renewable fuels, the program supports companies and initiatives to accomplish their goals throughout the entire state. Alternative fuels are a major focus of the project and the demand for these fuels is steadily on the rise.
Though the battle is far from over, California is well on its way to meeting its goals of zero emissions and cleaner air. Alternative fuels seem to be the key to the solution. In this article, we'll take an in-depth look at the subject to foster understanding and further the pursuit of protecting our environment.
What are alternative fuels?
Alternative fuels are simply non-petroleum based fuels that come in a variety of categories. These include corn-based ethanol fuels, Biodiesel, propane, electrical, hydrogen and natural gas. Alternative fuels offer numerous benefits, often leading to lower costs for operating vehicles, less emissions polluting the air, produce less waste and can often be produced domestically. More choices along with increased standards and competition can lead to better cooperation among producers, better quality vehicles and an easier impact on the environment.
How alternative fuels are produced
Each alternative fuel has a unique means of production. Ethanol, for example, is a sustainable fuel source produced by using yeast to ferment the starch and sugar in plant material (like corn and sugarcane). Biodiesel is derived from animal fats and plant material, made by a chemical process where the glycerin is separated from the fat or vegetable oil, leaving both methyl esters and glycerin. Hydrogen fuel is produced through the electrolysis (when electric current is passed through a substance to create some kind of change) of water and propane is derived from domestic fossil fuels. One promising alternative fuel is natural gas, which can be compressed (CNG) or liquefied (LNG). Natural gas is produced by drilling for natural gas wells or pushing water, sand and chemicals through a well at high pressure.
Safety and environmental impact
With their sustainable, renewable and safety standards, alternative fuels are designed to create a cleaner, safer world. Some companies in California are doing innovative things with alternative fuels in general, but especially when it comes to natural gas fuels used for transportation. The rigorous gas station compliance testing process.
Natural gas sources are still derived from fossil fuels and have many uses. These fuels are dispersed quickly, are safer in the event of a spill, burn much cleaner and produce far less emissions than standard petroleum. There’s a renewable form of natural gas production (RNG) where biogas is recovered from landfills, wastewater treatment plants, livestock operations and other sources. For transportation purposes, natural gas can be compressed or liquified. CNG (compressed natural gas) is made by compressing natural gas to less than 1% of the volume it would normally occupy under normal atmospheric conditions. LNG (liquefied natural gas) takes up less volume than natural gas while sitting in its gaseous state. After that, transportation is easy and inexpensive. Liquefying the gas removes dust, acid, water, other gases, helium and heavy hydrocarbons.
Both CNG and LNG fueling stations in California have significant oversight and must adhere to the state’s highest standards. While it may not become a primary exporter of LNG fuel, California is certainly worth watching in this area.
How alternative fuels help protect the environment
Some alternative fuels reuse waste products or come from completely renewable sources like ethanol or biodiesel fuels. These types of renewable energy have the same benefits as renewable power sources (like wind and solar), in that they’re sustainable, foster economic development, and can be relatively inexpensive to produce and produce little-to-no greenhouse gas emissions. Lower emissions from some types of fuel help keep the air clean and reduce our carbon footprint while enabling more efficient—and less expensive—travel. The fossil fuels from which much of our current petroleum is derived will likely run out eventually and an alternative will be necessary.
Learn more about alternative fuels
Alternative fuels offer a world of positive potential for the future. Educating society on their uses, benefits and environmental impact is the key to their successful implementation and widespread acceptance. Online researching, libraries and scientific journals are a great place to start learning more about the exciting world of alternative fuels. Additional resources for learning about alternate fuels are readily available through the California Energy Commission, public access programs like NOVA, online PHD courses and through federal initiatives from the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. With alternative fuels, the future can be bright indeed.