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Gas, diesel, electric, are all sources that help farmers with their everyday lives. Gas and diesel are seen as fossil fuels which we will run out of at some point so there needs to be a solution to slow the use of fossil fuels. Ethanol, a colorless volatile flammable liquid which is produced by the natural fermentation of sugars. The idea came from seeing these farmers use these fossil fuels and emitting a lot of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. A solution needed to be found. The solution to that, corn. Throughout the US roughly 40 percent of all the corn harvested will be used to create ethanol. The other corn you see in the field will be used for animal feed, exports, food/industrial, and residual. If you ever find yourself driving through Iowa which is the number one corn producer in the state remember that almost none of that corn in the fields is used as corn that we love to eat.

Seeing all the corn in the field it may be easy to comprehend how it can go from a stalk to a feed bag but how does it go from stalk to liquid that can be used in our vehicles? Once the corn is harvested and sent off to co-ops then farmers have been paid for their bushels and they go right back to farming. The corn however is ground down into a form of flour or meal which is a form of a starch. Liquefaction is the next step where water is added to make a slurry. Which is then heated to break down the starch molecules the enzyme alpha-amylase is added to further help breakdown the molecules. Next up is saccharification where the broken down starch molecules are further broken down into glucose. Fermentation occurs next when yeast is added to the slurry to break down the glucose, yeast gets energy from glucose; this is the step that ethanol is produced but it is only 10-15 percent ethanol. Distillation and dehydration is the process of evaporation and condensing which brings the mixture to 95 percent ethanol and the remaining five percent is strained and dehydrated to have pure ethanol. Denaturation is where a small amount of gas is added to make the ethanol undrinkable. There are byproducts of ethanol due to the process of how it is made and carbon dioxide is the main byproduct but there are other uses for the CO2 that is produced, carbonated beverages, producing dry ice for cold storage, and photosynthesis in greenhouses. The second byproduct is distillers grain which is residue from the fermentation tanks but is valued as a high protein ingredient in livestock feed. Most gasoline that is put into our cars is E10 which is 10% ethanol and can be used in most cars that are made later than 1986. 

The ethanol industry began in the 1970s when the fuel became expensive and there started to be environmental concerns. Ethanol became popular due to it being biodegradable if spilled it quickly breaks down. Ethanol also reduces the emissions and other toxic pollutants. Ethanol being made from corn means that the corn absorbs the carbon dioxide that is constantly being produced into the atmosphere. The corn needs to be able to start the process of photosynthesis. Most of the ethanol is produced in the US however Brazil is the largest producer of ethanol in the world because they produce their ethanol from sugar cane and almost all the vehicles in Brazil run solely on ethanol. Most of the emissions were not coming from the cars that people drive everyday however it was coming from the equipment that is being used to farm the corn used for ethanol. The heightened production and use of ethanol helped close the doors of emissions. It is seen by farmers as a constant recycle circle when emissions are put off by tractors and other farm vehicles then the other remaining corn is able to absorb that carbon dioxide. Also stated before the carbon dioxide that is produced from the ethanol is able to be used for other things such as carbonation in sodas. Overall ethanol still has a long way to go before we use it instead of gasoline but it is a work in progress. 

After reading this far hearing ethanol you may think of a few words such as gas, corn, and carbon dioxide. However it is also used in hand sanitizer which has become a big selling product in the past year and a half. According to the FDA there are only two approved alcohols that can be used in hand sanitizer isopropyl alcohol and ethanol. When companies put on their ingredient label that it contains alcohol they mean ethanol. The first hand sanitizer was released in 1997 and it started to gain popularity with CDC recommendations and use in the army. Hand sanitizers with a higher concentration of ethanol have a higher chance of killing those bacterias that live on our hands. Isopropyl alcohol and ethanol have about the same effectiveness rate sitting at 65-90 percent. While more corn should not be produced just for hand sanitizer because it could lead to more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere if there is “extra” ethanol it could be used to make hand sanitizers. 

Ethanol is regularly used today even though people may not be aware they are using it either through gasoline or a by-product. There is not a single person that does not use ethanol in some form from animal feed to just opening a soda that is using the leftover carbon dioxide. While corn is a big factor in ethanol, any vegetation can be broken down into alcohol by using the process as stated previously corn is the most widely grown thing by Iowa which is the United States biggest corn producer. Eventually we may get to our vehicles being able to run solely on ethanol which would be good for fossil fuels because we could reserve them for when we really need them. 

The Earth’s temperatures are rising slowly every year to where it affects our tundras, and continents like Antarctica where the ice is melting more rapidly than it should be. However if you ever travel to the midwest near the corn state of Iowa it will feel as though the Earth is getting colder. The dead of winter in Iowa with the wind can reach below freezing temperatures of negative fifty degrees with the wind chill factored. Which makes New Jersey’s winters of maybe fifteen degrees feel warm. While it is no secret that the midwest is flat so the winds are more brutal which makes it feel colder than it is does not make it an excuse to have temperatures colder than Alaska or Antarctica. Cold winter mornings we are taught to start our car and run it for a little bit before driving it to keep the car in good condition as well as have it feel nice to not get into a cold car. However that is an extra fifteen minutes of emissions going into the atmosphere and only gets worse the bigger the car gets. Although it can feel cold and like the Earth is not actually melting, it is part of those emissions from the fossil fuels that contribute to climate change. How can this issue be fixed? Ethanol. 

Ethanol became popular because we are able to have a reusable fuel source as well as lower the amount of carbon dioxide that is emitted into the atmosphere. Ethanol is sourced from almost any plant source such as corn, soybean, and sugar cane which gets broken down to create ethanol which is biodegradable and renewable. Ethanol was also popularized because it is a cycle of carbon dioxide where carbon dioxide is put off by vehicles and the equipment used to farm the corn or soybean the plants soak up the carbon dioxide to create that constant cycle. While this may seem like a great fool proof plan, what happens in the winter when there is no corn or soybean or even a small wildflower to soak up that carbon dioxide? Carbon dioxide not only comes from the emissions of our cars, it also comes from turning up our thermostats to stay warm or using all the energy to stay in the Christmas spirit and keeping lights on almost all night for a month. Due to these examples there is more carbon dioxide going into the atmosphere and no plants use it because most of them die off in the winter. Solutions to not put off as much carbon dioxide during the winter is maybe just bundle up in the house instead of turning the heat off which not only avoids carbon dioxide emission but also saves you a bit of money on your heating bill. You can also switch to LED lights year round and LED string lights during the holiday season. Lastly, instead of starting your car fifteen minutes before you leave, maybe try five minutes or even find someone that you can carpool with to work, school, or just going out and about and depending where you are this could help you avoid traffic as you could use the carpool lane. 

Yuengling, Blue Moon, Titos, Jim Beam, and Peach Schnapps. These are all beers and liquors but what could they possibly have in common other than tasting bad. Ethanol. Yes, the same ethanol that is mixed with your gas and pumped into your cars is the same ethanol that is in most drinks that you decide to go out and get after a rough shift with your coworkers. The only difference is the ethanol that is added to alcohols, beers, and liquors is purified just a bit more than the ethanol that gets pumped into your car. While twenty drinks in a year is not enough to cause harmful effects on a healthy person, twenty drinks in a week is enough to be the start of an issue especially if it is a consistent behavior. Long term alcohol abuse can cause liver and cardiovascular disease or cancers, nervous system problems, anxiety, or depression. These effects can happen when someone is or once was dependent on alcohol however it does have a short term effect on the body when in use. These short term effects can include slurred speech, drowsiness, unsteadiness, distorted hearing and vision, and black outs. Either way ethanol is still being produced and this is another way that ethanol being produced does not have a cycle. They are emitting carbon dioxide to farm the plants, and to break down the ethanol, and then carbon dioxide is also being produced to make these beers, wines, and liquors and while the plants are able to soak up some of that carbon dioxide it is not doubled from the ethanol production and alcohol production. 

Ethanol has weaned it’s way into our everyday life through gas, drinks, and even hand sanitizer. Not only is ethanol involved in products we use everyday but it can not only affect our day to day life but it can also affect our health. Ethanol has started to show its effects on our day to day life with climate change as the more carbon dioxide that we put off into the atmosphere the warmer the Earth gets which is the cause of climate change. Now Ethanol can affect our health through multiple ways. One of the more obvious ways would be to ingest gas as that has very harmful and deadly effects, but with ethanol being produced in alcoholic beverages then it has the short and long term effects. It can also lead to a disease known as alcoholism as it can become very addictive to some people who use it as an escape because of the effects and they do not get help for themselves. Ethanol does have its uses in today’s day and age and has proven to help and has given us a renewable source of energy however there are also many things that have been affected by ethanol such as the Earth, humans, and gas companies. 

Ethanol as we see today is starting to weasel its way into replacing the fossil fuels that we use for gasoline. Ethanol has many benefits to our day to day life and the environment and the health of the planet. Ethanol being a biodegradable and renewable resource it has many benefits to not only the average day to day person but truly benefits corn and soybean farmers. Not only does ethanol benefit the planet and farmers but it also opens up jobs inside the United States instead of having to go out and find a job internationally or on a rig in the middle of the ocean. Domestic jobs allow people to stay home with their families and go home to a house everyday. Ethanol is not just used for gas but that is where the average person will see it as well as in hand sanitizers. 

Carbon dioxide emissions are produced highly from vehicles and machines, they are also highly controlled by deforestation. When you turn your car on and you stand by the trunk and you feel a warm air coming from a pipe that is carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere through the exhaust. While your little Toyota Camry may not seem like it gives off much, it is the other million camrys being turned on everyday that add to those emissions. Now how does deforestation factor into carbon dioxide emissions considering they are just trees falling down. Deforestation is the process of clearing out forests and knocking down trees to create a field for agriculture use, or a place to put up a warehouse or factory and then those trees are sold for fuel, construction, and manufacturing. Trees have connections to carbon dioxide because they take in that carbon dioxide in the air and absorb it for the use in photosynthesis. So when those trees are taken down there is more carbon dioxide in the air because there is nothing around to absorb it so that carbon dioxide gets released into the atmosphere to add to the greenhouse gases. The vehicles used to clear out the areas also release a tremendous amount of carbon dioxide. So how can ethanol factor into this? Ethanol comes from corn and soybeans in America and sugar cane in South America. When these plants are planted into the ground and begin to grow they also go through the process of photosynthesis so they absorb carbon dioxide to start that process. 

Ethanol being farmed domestically also allows up to keep jobs local and not drill into the Earth in isolated parts of the world such as the North Slope of Alaska, the Arctic Ocean, and the Gulf of Mexico. In the areas there are oil rigs located in isolated parts of the ocean so these workers must leave their families to go work on these rigs for months at a time. Life on an oil rig can be lonely yet so busy as they are described as floating cities. When you first arrive at the rig you are issued hard hats, safety glasses, steel toe boots, and coveralls then you land your first shift which could last anywhere between eight to twelve hours a day for 2 weeks then it’s possible to earn that three weeks of time off to go see family again on land. While it may seem simple work for two weeks then three weeks off you are living where you work and are living in bunk beds and living with who you work with although your food is available in the cafeteria and there are other amenities on the rig to make life seem normal when you are not on shift. While this may seem great it is hard work and with the production of ethanol the rigs could start disappearing but another problem with the rigs is what happens when they are no longer needed? They either get left there in the middle of the ocean which ocean life could benefit to start a reef but there are most likely too many hazardous materials around to even have marine life. So for the most part they are broken down and scraped which adds to our landfill which then adds to our pollution. With the production of ethanol being produced on land and being farmed it allows for less pollution and more absorption of carbon dioxide. 

Lastly, Ethanol is the most cost effective biofuel that is produced. It is so cost effective because there is not a business or team that needs to be started as we simply started paying farmers for their crops to be sent to a co-op to be made into ethanol. Farmers’ lives did not change; they simply may have decided to start growing more corn or more soybean depending on what is more needed and how much they can get for each bushel from the co-op. When you go to get gas depending on your car you could get the cheapest gas. The reason gas prices vary all comes down to the blend of ethanol and gasoline. The cheapest option will have a higher ethanol to gas ratio and the more expensive option will have more gas than ethanol. Some cars are able to handle that higher concentration of ethanol and some cars can not that higher concentration of gas is called premium and more “high end” cars will use that gas. 

In conclusion, ethanol has many advantages ranging from planting, to price, and efficiency and it is much better for the environment than gasoline or oil. By finding ways to integrate ethanol into the environment more for replacement of things we may see the use of fossil fuels lessen and the carbon dioxide in the air disappear. Ethanol has shown us many benefits by using it in gas, and in hand sanitizer as well as giving people jobs closer to home and allowing farmers to stay in business by using their crop of corn, soybean, and sugar cane. We are also able to support those small business farmers instead of using big oil companies that may not treat their employees well. 

Sources

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About RinkeshA true environmentalist by heart ❤️. Founded Conserve Energy Future with the sole motto of providing helpful information related to our rapidly depleting environment. Unless you strongly believe in Elon Musk‘s idea of making Mars as another h, Rinkesh, A., & A true environmentalist by heart ❤️. Founded Conserve Energy Future with the sole motto of providing helpful information related to our rapidly depleting environment. Unless you strongly believe in Elon Musk‘s idea of making Mars as another habitable plan. (2020, August 25). What is ethanol fuel and advantages and disadvantages of ethanol. Conserve Energy Future. Retrieved December 2, 2021, from https://www.conserve-energy-future.com/ethanol-fuel.php. 

Is ethanol cheaper than gasoline? American Energy Alliance. (2015, February 23). Retrieved December 2, 2021, from https://www.americanenergyalliance.org/2012/08/is-ethanol-cheaper-than-gasoline/. 

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