What are Alternative Fuels?

What Does Combustibles Alternativos Mean

Alternative fuels are those fuels that were designed to replace petroleum derivatives ( fossil fuels ) and nuclear fuels. The oil is not only highly polluting but has also become increasingly scarce which raises its price.



Alternative fuels are believed to be cheaper and less damaging to the environment , but this is not always the case. As they are new fuels, in many cases their development is still costly, and there is still a lot of research to do.

The search for this type of fuel began more than 150 years ago, when fossil fuels began to replace wood.

It can help you: Conservation of the environment

Advantages and disadvantages of alternative fuels

Deforestation can be a consequence of alternative fuels.

When talking about biofuels, advantages and disadvantages can be identified.

  • Advantage:
    • Lower CO 2 emission . The alternative energy helps reduce the greenhouse effect thanks to emit virtually no CO 2 . This was one of the main reasons why they began to venture into this type of fuel.
    • It is a way of recycling. Animal excrement or garbage are often used for the production of alternative fuels .
    • They are renewable. As they are produced from sources that are practically inexhaustible (such as agricultural or livestock materials), alternative fuels belong to the category of renewable energies .
    • They preserve fossil fuel reserves. Thanks to the use of other natural resources , the use of fuels such as gasoline is limited. This is beneficial for future generations, as they will have fossil fuel reserves.
    • They are biodegradable. Alternative energies are cleaner, not only because of the negative consequences that a spill of them can generate (which are less than those caused by a fossil fuel spill) but also when they are burned, since they produce less toxic gases than when they are burned. fossil fuels.
    • Economical. The generation of alternative fuels is less expensive than that of fossil fuels because the latter are increasingly scarce, making them more expensive. Likewise, the generation of alternative fuels has a cost that will be lower and lower the more knowledge and technology advance regarding their use.
  • Disadvantages:
    • Pollutants While it is true that these fuels were designed to reduce environmental pollution , some still have a negative environmental impact (some when produced, others when used, and others in both stages).
    • Impact on food. As they are produced, in many cases, from grains that are also used as food , this can have an impact on their prices. Thus, eating becomes more expensive for people and also for animals. For example, pigs feed on soybeans, which is often used as a raw material to produce alternative fuels.
    • Cutting down trees. The deforestation can be one of the effects caused by this type of fuel. This has consequences for biodiversity , which is threatened. This not only affects plants or trees but also the animals that inhabit them.
    • Soil depletion. The generation of alternative fuels can have a negative impact on soils , depleting their nutrients and rendering them useless in the future.

What are the alternative fuels?

Biodiesel is made from animal fats or vegetable oils.

There are different types of alternative fuels, which have been developed over the last 150 years. Some are:

  • Methanol Experts estimate that although no more cars are manufactured today that can be fed with this fuel, it is expected that it can be used as a source of hydrogen in future electric cars.
  • P-series fuels. The combination of methyltetrahydrofuran, natural gas and ethanol, which can power flexible fuel vehicles, is known under this name. The mixture can be used alone, or added in some quantity to gasoline.
  • Natural gas . These are actually several gases that can be used as fuel. It is a mixture of methane, butane, ethane and propane, which has a higher proportion of methane. It is a less polluting, safer and more renewable material than fossil fuels, although the methane generated in the production of natural gas generates a greenhouse effect.
  • Electricity . Stored in a battery , electricity can be used (instead of fossil fuel) to run cars. In this case, the energy is produced with an electrochemical reaction from the combination of oxygen and hydrogen, avoiding combustion and contamination.
  • Hydrogen. By mixing with natural gas, an alternative fuel is produced that, like electricity, can be used to power cars. Hydrogen is used to power vehicles with internal combustion engines and for those with electric batteries. As long as hydrogen is used in its pure form and not combined with other fuels, it does not emit any pollutants.
  • Biodiesel. This fuel is made from animal fats or vegetable oils. One of its advantages is that it is biodegradable and does not pollute, in addition to being a safe material. Biodiesel can be used in vehicles with diesel engines.
  • Bioethanol. It is the most widely used alternative fuel today and the simplest to produce. Being in huge quantities, it is estimated that in the future it will be one of the most widely considered options because it will be able to supply the demand . It is usually produced from corn, sugar cane, beets or wheat. There is a worldwide controversy about the use of bioethanol because, being produced from raw material that is also food for living beingsSome speculate that food prices will increase because they will not be enough to produce bioethanol and sustain food. There is also another negative opinion, because many assume that deforestation will increase greatly to use large areas of land for crops that are used to produce bioethanol.
  • Biobutanol. This fuel is the result of a fermentation equivalent to that of ethanol and is used, for its production, sugar cane, beet, sorghum, corn or wheat, among others. It is one of the newest options and it performs better than ethanol. It can also be produced from bagasse, straw and stems of some crops, which are products that compete less with food production.


Biomass is the organic matter that comes from a plant or an animal.

Biofuels are a type of alternative fuel, which are produced from biomass . The biomass is organic matter that comes from a plant or animal.

These organic materials are converted into energy from different processes such as pyrolysis, combustion, gasification and anaerobic digestion .

They are a part of the alternative fuels mentioned above, and are part of the renewable energy sources.

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