The Manual for the Home and Farm Production of Alcohol Fuel

The Manual for the Home and Farm Production of Alcohol Fuel...

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The Manual for the Home and Farm Production of Alcohol Fuel by S.W. Mathewson Ten Speed Press © Copyright 1980 J.A. Diaz Publications Out of print Chapter 1 AN OVERVIEW ALCOHOL FUEL There is nothing new in the use of alcohol as a motor fuel. In 1872, when Nikolaus Otto invented the internal combustion engine, gasoline was not available. Ethyl alcohol at 180-190 proof was the specified fuel. The model "T" Ford was designed to run on the available crude gasolines, alcohol, or any combination of the two. Alcohols in general and ethanol, in particular, make excellent motor fuels. The reason alcohol fuel has not been fully exploited is that, up until now, gasoline has been cheap, available, and easy to produce. However, crude oil is getting scarce, and the historic price differential between alcohol and gasoline is getting narrower. Currently there is a big push to find and develop alternative sources of energy so that dwindling reserves of crude oil and other fossil fuels may be conserved. As Edward Teller, one of this country's leading physicists points out: "No single prescription exists for a solution to the energy problem. Energy conservation is not enough. Petroleum is not enough. Coal is not enough. Nuclear energy is not enough. Solar and geothermal energy are not enough. New ideas and developments will not be enough by themselves. Only the proper combination of all of these will suffice." Alcohol fuel can be an important part of the solution, but it is by no means a panacea. If all of the available agricultural surplus were converted to ethanol, alcohol would supply less than 5% of our motor fuel needs. Add the possibility of converting cellulose residues to ethanol and general biomass to methanol, and the most optimistic total falls short of 10% of our present needs! However, this is a very important 5 or 10% because it can be renewed each year, and each gallon of alcohol produced will save a gallon of oil. USES OF ALCOHOL FUEL One very important fact about alcohol fuel should be stressed. Alcohol is an excellent alternative motor fuel for gasoline engines. It is not a suitable alternative for home heating or for essentially stationary power requirements. The production of alcohol consumes energy. Exactly how much depends on the feedstock (raw material) and the efficiency of the distillation process. In a small operation, it would not be uncommon to expend 30-40,000 Btu per gallon of ethanol. It would be more sensible, in a home heating situation, to use whatever fuel you would use to run the still directly rather than using it to produce alcohol. The real advantage of alcohol is that it can be
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burned in the millions of existing vehicles with little or no modification. Alcohol fuel should only be considered for the jobs it can do best.
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