Alternatives to fossil fuel are becoming more popular not only because of their “green” benefits, but also because of concerns about relying on limited, imported resources to fuel cars – and economies. Biofuel and electricity, including hybrid-electric cars, have emerged as top alternatives to fossil fuel. However, in addition to ecological advantages, they each have drawbacks that will determine the role they play in the global future of energy.
Gasoline and diesel are called “fossil fuels” because they are derived from plant and animal remains that are millions of years old. Unlike fossil fuels, biofuels are renewable because they are made from living matter. The plants used to make biofuel absorb roughly as much carbon dioxide as they release when they are burned.
However, the financial and environmental costs of producing biofuel must also be considered. Biofuel is about 50 percent more expensive to produce than fossil fuel. Some argue that deforesting land to grow crops for biofuel counteracts its ecological benefits. Because land is a limited resource, using it for biofuel crops could drive up the cost of food. And, although the crops absorb carbon dioxide as they grow, processing them into biofuel requires substantial amounts of coal and natural gas. There is debate about whether biofuels yield as much energy as is needed to make them.
There is hope, though – some believe that creating biofuel from grass and young trees could make it more efficient to produce and use in the future.
From an environmental perspective, electric cars are ideal because they do not contribute to fossil fuel pollution. They run on rechargeable batteries alone and don’t emit exhaust. But electric cars are not as driver-friendly as they are green. Most can’t travel more than 100 miles without being recharged, and using the radio, heat or air conditioning can make the battery life even shorter. In most places, charging an electric vehicle is not as convenient as stopping to fill up a gas tank. Charging stations for electric cars, which allow owners to give their batteries a quick boost on-the-go, are hard to find. Drivers of electric cars still rely primarily on at-home charging stations.
Hybrid-electric cars, which have an electric motor and a gasoline engine, offer a balance of eco-friendliness and practicality. The engine charges the battery and extends the car’s battery life. It can also give the car a boost for better acceleration, which is especially helpful when driving on a steep incline. Hybrid-electric cars are built with lightweight materials and equipped with low-resistance tires, which makes them more fuel efficient. However, the lightweight materials also make them more likely to be totaled in a collision. If you drive or are thinking about purchasing a hybrid, make sure you keep it protected with full-coverage car insurance. For affordable coverage that fits your budget, look for an automobile insurance company that offers discounts for safe driving.
So, what do you think about either of these options? Do you favour one over the next, and if so why?