Fuel Options for the Future

In the very near future, it's quite possible that most vehicle owners will be reusing frying oil to fuel their trucks or plugging their cars into the wall just like a toaster. As gas prices rise, manufacturers are steadily lowering the price points for engines that utilize alternative fuel options that don't use natural resources or harm the environment.

New alternative fuels are popping up faster than you can say "fill 'er up," making it important to understand which ones may be right for your vehicle and driving needs. Below is information on some of the most sustainable and practicable alternative fuel options for the future.

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Biodiesel

Biodiesel is an eco-friendly fuel that can be made from animal fats, algae, or from recycled vegetable oils like those used by restaurants to cook up French fries and other greasy goodies. Clean, veggie-based, and carbon-neutral, this fuel can usually run in any diesel car or truck with little or no modification to the engine.

Biodiesel burns cleaner than fossil fuel diesel, expelling fewer aromatic hydrocarbons and less soot and carbon monoxide. Because the carbon dioxide released by biodiesel is the same kind absorbed by the plant (or animal) source from where the fuel came, biodiesel is called a carbon neutral fuel. Unfortunately, biodiesel releases more nitrous oxide than regular diesel, a factor in smog. In 2005, the U.S. produced around 75 million gallons of this alternative fuel and in 2006, 65 companies reported having biodiesel plants under construction.

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Ethanol

Ethanol is another popular alternative fuel that is usually made from fibrous materials like wood chips or from the starch or sugar found in common crops like corn. Ethanol burns cleaner than gasoline while reducing greenhouse gases.

Ethanol is already in use, powering nearly six million flex-fuel vehicles already on the road. The United States is widely considered the world's largest ethanol producer, cranking out 4.6 billion gallons of ethanol each year.

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Vegetable Oil

Vegetable oil can power a diesel engine after just a few simple modifications, turning junker cars into low emissions vehicles. Before use, vegetable oil must be put through a conversion system so that it is heated to the appropriate temperature to properly run an engine, but once users get the hang of the process, there are many benefits beyond the low emissions.

Because both unused and used vegetable oil work to fuel a car, people who convert often brag about never having to pay for their fuel, instead relying on the never-ending supply of used cooking oils from restaurants.

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Electricity

Electricity isn't new, but modern science has found interesting and eco-friendly uses for it. Electric vehicles are eco-friendly because they don't produce tailpipe emissions, although the generators producing the electricity used to charge EV batteries do emit pollutants. However, these pollutants are considered to be minimal when compared to the usage of gas. There were over 55,000 Full-Electric Vehicles in 2004, and this doesn't even include hybrids! Annual growth has skyrocketed since then at an approximate growth rate of 39%

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Hydrogen

Hydrogen currently isn't powering any consumer vehicles, though many city bus systems have already made the switch to this zero-emissions alternative fuel. Because of the many benefits, it seems to be only a matter of time until this efficient fuel makes its way into your vehicle. The U.S. government is working towards overcoming the cost and production challenges and anticipates progress sometime soon.

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Compressed Natural Gas

Compressed Natural Gas is clear, odorless, and non-corrosive. Impressively, vehicles run off of natural gas show an average reduction in ozone-forming emissions of 80 percent compared to gasoline vehicles, and CNG is produced at a relatively low cost and is cleaner burning than gasoline or diesel fuel.

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Other Alternative Fuels on the Horizon Include

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