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Do You Realize You Already Use Biomass Fuel in Your Vehicle

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Do You Realize You Already Use Biomass Fuel in Your Vehicle

Rick Chapo
March 11, 2006

The call has gone out from President Bush to kick our oil habit. For many people, the mention of biomass as a fuel source was a new concept. Little did they realize they have already been putting it into their cars. Nope, that isn’t your dad’s gas anymore.

There are Plants in My Gasoline?

In his State of the Union speech, President Bush made much of the alternative fuel sources available these days. While he should be commended for promoting their use, he perhaps was a bit vague in regard to how far along we are in using biofuels for cars. Most people don’t realize that most government vehicles are already using bioethanol and have been doing so for a number of years. Yep, the government has already switched to bioethanol to improve vehicle performance and reduce air pollution. Now, how often does that occur?

Ethanol is the most widely used biomass fuel for cars these days. In excess of 2.8 BILLION gallons of bio ethanol were used as a gasoline additive in the U.S in 2003. Ethanol is a form of alcohol. It is produced through a process strikingly similar to the beer you find in your local tavern or store. Cellulosic biomass [plant pulp] is turned to mush. The mush is converted to base sugars and those sugars are fermented just like wine and beer. The ethanol is then separated from the sugars giving you instant fuel. This process is considered a biomass production because the starting point is a plant. , and most is made using a process similar to brewing beer where starch crops are converted into sugars, the sugars are fermented into ethanol, and then the ethanol is distilled into its final form.

In 1990, numerous cities and states were suffering massive pollution problems. Politics being what it is, nobody at the state level was doing much about the problem. Enter the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990. These acts included language mandating the sale of oxygenated to cut down on carbon monoxide emissions from cars. The oxygenation was produced by adding bioethanol to the gasoline.

When you’re filling up your car, have you ever notice the patch on the pump with oxygenation language? If so, you were using gasoline with bioethanol in it. And they didn’t even tell you.

Rick Chapo is with SolarCompanies.com, a directory of solar energy companies. Visit our biomass energy page to read more about bioethanol.

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