From fuel to sugarcane

Biodiesel fuels, made with vegetable oils, pollute less but have a serious disadvantage: woods and tropical forests need to be cut down to get large tracts of land to grow palm oil. (Januar / AFP)

The burnout of fossil fuels forces us to find new sources of energy to keep vehicles running.

The Industrial Revolution and the development of our society were made possible thanks to fossil fuels. Coal was the first fossil fuel to be used, but later others were discovered such as oil or natural gas.

For 200 years, the burning of fossil fuels has provided the energy needed to power machines, move vehicles and operate factories.

However, these energy sources are polluting and non-renewable (we would have to wait for millions of years to replace the reserves). That’s why governments, scientific institutions and companies have started looking for alternative sources of energy.

 

Vegetable-based fuel

Fossil fuels were formed from organic matter, remains of plants and animals that were left to decompose in water for thousands of years, to take its current form.

At present, scientists have managed to shorten the process in laboratories. Biodiesel is formed by mixing diesel with vegetable oils, which is why they pollute less than standard gas or diesel (obtained from petrol).

The problem with biodiesel is that they require large areas of crops to produce so much fuel. As a result, both forests and rainforests are cut down to provide sufficient cropland and, indirectly, this increases greenhouse gas emissions.

In some cases, the use of biodiesel can be more harmful than beneficial for the environment. (NGO Transport & Environment)

Besides, not all biodiesel are the same: the less diesel, the less CO2 emissions. The problem is that some biodiesel fuels only include 5% vegetable oil …

 

E-diesel: Fuel made of air?

Car manufacturing company Audi has spent years studying a formula to produce fuel by mixing water, CO2 and electricity (obtained with renewable energies). This fuel would allow cars to run virtually without emissions.

First, hydroelectric power (without emissions) is used to generate electricity; then that electricity is used to separate the elements of water, hydrogen and oxygen. Once isolated, the hydrogen is made to react with the CO2 (obtained from the atmosphere or other residual gases) which results in E-diesel.

Audi’s renewable system is capable of bringing energy to housing (Audi)

During 2018, Audi is planning to build a plant to produce its own ecological fuel in large amounts.

 

Electric power

More and more devices and machines work with electricity, doing without fossil fuels.

This technological change is very important in the case of electric cars. There are more than 1.2 billion cars around the world that emit greenhouse gases when driving: being able to replace them with vehicles free of fumes, would improve the quality of the air we breathe and would be a very important step in the fight against climate change.

But electric power is not always clean. Sometimes it is produced in plants that work with coal or natural gas so that, even though the electricity used does not produce polluting gases, the fuel used to generate this does.

Therefore, whenever we can, we must choose companies or services that use renewable energy: wind, hydraulic or solar.

Translated by Chaplin’s Languages | Find out more in Junior Report

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