Alternative Fuels

Typically, all non-petrotroleum-based fuel sources are characterized as “alternative fuels,” even though some are not renewable.  By far the most popular — and controversial — alternative fuel is ethanol, which is contained in blends of up to 10% or more in most gasoline dispensed in the U.S.  The other major biofuel, biodiesel, is made from naturally occuring oils and can be used as a subsitute for diesel fuel.  Other alternative fuels include: electric vehicles (commonly known as EVs) including hybrid gas-electric or diesel-electric vehicles, hydrogen (either combustion or fuel cell), compressed natural gas (CNG), and propane.

Biofuels are fuel products derived from biological material and are usually used for transportation applications. Prominent biofuels are biodiesel and ethanol. Biodiesel uses the oils from biological material to produce a diesel product that can be used in diesel engines. It usually comes in blends of B1, B5 or B20, depending on the blend ratio (higher numbers mean higher percentages of biodiesel). Ethanol is produced from sugars, which are distilled to form alcohol that can be blended for use in gasoline-powered engines. Most gasoline pumped in the U.S. already contains some ethanol, usually around 10%, but flex-fuel vehicles can use E85 as well. The most common source of sugar for ethanol production in the U.S. is corn, although sugarcane is used exclusively in Brazil and the only ethanol producer in Virginia uses barley. Valley 25x’25 statement on biofuels: Valley 25x’25 promotes the adoption of sensible renewable energy solutions for the Shenandoah Valley. We recognize that corn-based ethanol is a highly controversial topic in the Valley and elsewhere because of its impact on feed prices for poultry farmers. Although Valley 25x’25 has no official position on ethanol, we are not promoting corn-based ethanol production in the Shenandoah Valley because it does not make economic or environmental sense in our region. Valley 25x’25 promotes sensible renewable energy solutions that are appropriate for our unique natural and human environments in the Shenandoah Valley.

  Biofuel Links and Resources

  • Sandia National Labs – Biofuel Deployment Study.pdf
  • Pfuderer et al – The role of demand for biofuel in the agricultural commodity prices spikes of 2007-08.pdf
  • Minnesota Project – Transportation Biofuels in the U.S..pdf
  • IEA Energy Technology Essentials – Biofuels.pdf
  • National 25x’25 statement on food vs. fuel debate