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Final Paper: Alternative Fuel Source Importance

Petroleum has been the number one source of fuel for America for decades. The dependence on other countries for this product has been and is becoming increasingly more of a problem for this nation to deal with. Another affect that petroleum has on the whole world is extreme pollution that is destroying the environment. I believe that in our generation when we have kids and rule the business world the shortage of petroleum and the pollution it has caused will be extremely major problems in society. The importance of alternate sources of fuel and energy need to be discussed further and the government needs to play a major role in making that happen. Two of the obvious choices to be discussed for this project would be Hydrogen fuel cells and methane in powering vehicles. The most undeniable fact that needs to be taken into account by all people is the necessity of an alternate fuel source that is easily producible and very comparable to current gas prices so that it is affordable.

Hydrogen fuel cells are the first new concept that should be discussed for an alternate fuel source mainly for cars. Some government work is already being accomplished on this idea, especially in Anne Arbor, Michigan. The research being done there states that "Based on available research, fuel cell vehicles are expected to offer an extremely quiet ride with little vibration. Compared with conventional vehicles, fuel cell vehicles are also expected to provide improved fuel economy, increased engine efficiency, lower smog-forming emissions, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions" (http://www.epa.gov/fuelcell/basicinfo.htm). Just this statement alone should make anyone realize the real capabilities and importance of this new technology. Other things being done in terms of fuel cells is ”General Motors Corp. and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) have signed a five-year, $88-million agreement to build a 40-vehicle fuel cell fleet and further develop the technology” (http://www.gm.com/company/gmability/adv_tech/100_news/doe_033005.html). A huge step in the process of hydrogen fuel cell conversion is for, like these two stated, the government and companies team up to achieve their goals. Shell is also helping with the fuel cell vehicle fleet produced by GM by putting up five hydrogen refueling centers in the northeast and California. Another example of this dealing is all of the UPS trucks in Anne Arbor have made it their priority to convert all of their delivery trucks to this method of fuel consumption, which is another example of companies helping. If more companies that effect the environment such as UPS would take the initiative to convert, the environment would be a lot better off. These fuel cells can produce zero emissions, but another way is also "through a "fuel reformer" that converts hydrocarbon fuels such as methanol, natural gas, or gasoline into hydrogen-rich gas" (http://www.epa.gov/fuelcell/basicinfo.htm). That is another concept that has already been looked into and is in operation in many city buses that run on natural gas. However, despite the appearance that nothing is being done “Most auto manufacturers are actively researching fuel cell transportation technologies and testing prototype passenger vehicles. Several North American cities are also testing fuel cell-powered transit buses”(http://www.epa.gov/fuelcell/basicinfo.htm). This process just needs to be done by everyone, helped out by the government with funds, and put into action as soon as possible to better ensure that it gets done.

Methanol or Natural gas is the other option that should be discussed as a possibility especially since there are vehicles already using this product although it could have more problems than that of the hydrogen fuel cells. The problems are that emissions are still produced, but these fuels are greatly more efficient than our still current option of gasoline and petroleum. A huge advantage of this type of technology is that "Methanol-fueled trucks and buses emit almost no particulate matter," and it would also "diversify the country's fuel supply and reduce its dependence on imported petroleum" (http://www.epa.gov/otaq/consumer/07-meoh.pdf). It is obvious that America needs to be less dependent on foreign petroleum and has been a key point in controversy for years and years. Both of these alternate fuel sources seem like great options, but the biggest question of all is funding. Where will the money come from for such a project? Can it have the support of enough people in congress or just people in general? Well, the money could come from small cuts in other programs that aren’t as much of an immediate necessity. This kind of program could be introduced nationally on some kind of schedule of 10 or so years. Revenue for this project could also come from fines on companies that do not follow the deadlines for this conversion. Another option to enforce the total conversion is have government operated and run emissions testing for the entire country. That would take care of the emissions control and the money to cover the entire conversion operations for the country.

Once again this issue is of great importance to the whole nation as well as the whole world. With the cooperation of the government and all businesses and people this would just be a step that everyone would just take and get it over with. Once the step is over the rest is downhill toward saving our planet. Clean air is one of the biggest problems of our country and the world, not to mention that petroleum is running out rather quickly. Petroleum will be extinguished in our lifetimes and then what will we do for fuel and power. I cannot explain enough how important and alternate fuel sources will be to our nation. The options of hydrogen fuel cells and methanol as alternate fuel sources must be explored, in order to ensure that our generation and generations to come do not suffer the painful consequences of procrastination.

Resources:

Environmental Protection Agency Technology Staff. 2004. “Basic Information.” [web page]; http://www.epa.gov/fuelcell/basicinfo.htm [Accessed March 2005].

Environmental Protection Agency Technology Staff 2004. “Methanol Basics.” [web page]; http://www.epa.gov/otaq/consumer/07-meoh.pdf [Accessed March 2005].

General Motors Corporation. 2005. “GM, DOE Sign $88-Million Agreement to Advance Fuel Cell Development”. [web page]; http://www.gm.com/company/gmability/adv_tech/100_news/doe_033005.html [Accessed April 9 2005].


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