Veggies = Gas? The Source of Alternative Fuel

How often do you think about what goes into our cars, buses and planes to make them run? All the time, right? (Just kidding.) The sources of our fuel are easy to forget. But when I saw this video about how much oil we use in the U.S. after 2010’s big spill on the gulf coast, I started wondering what a solution to this fuel problem might be.

Oil’d from Chris Harmon on Vimeo.


So what are some solutions? The first idea I stumbled upon comes from a teen who proposes that we harness heat from compost to create hot water. Her article in Teen Ink Magazine explains that using the heat that naturally comes from compost piles would help us reduce our dependency on finite fossil fuels.

While this seems like a great start to reducing how much energy we use, I wondered if compost would help us change transportation. After more research, I found out there’s a more common alternative: something called biofuel. National Geographic explains that biofuels have existed since cars were invented (some early engines even ran on peanut oil!), but we are just now starting to return to using them.

What are biofuels? Unlike fossil fuels, which come from plants and animals that have been buried for millions of years, biofuels are made from plants we grow today. In other words, biofuels are a renewable energy source. People use different plants around the world to create fuel: sugarcane in Brazil, palm oil in Indonesia, sweet potatoes in China, and corn here in the U.S.

Atlanta has recently become home to projects looking for alternative fuel solutions. Last summer, students at Georgia Tech worked with students at Mary Lin Elementary to create the nation’s first hydraulic hybrid school bus, an eco-friendly vehicle that runs on recycled biodiesel made from cooking oil. The project will hopefully pave the way to Atlanta schools offering greener transportation for students.

Just outside of Atlanta in Smyrna, city officials have also committed to making cooking oil into fuel. Like many positive environmental work, this change is expected to have multiple benefits. Not only will it save the city money and help the air, it will also help city sewers work better! (Read more about that project here.)

Even though research for better fuel sources is happening now, we are still using finite natural resources for most of our transport. Perhaps the best alternative is to reduce how much we use fuel overall by choosing transport alternatives that don’t require it, such as walking and biking. After learning more about fuel alternatives, though, I won’t look at vegetables the same way again!

Do you think biofuel sounds like a good alternative fuel solution? Why or why not?

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