Using ethanol as an alternative source of energy for motor vehicles is nothing new. Even the Ford Model T in 1908 was adjusted to run on ethanol.
But ethanol usage began to increase in the United States in the 1980s and 1990s when government regulations encouraged the use of ethanol as replacements for harmful gasoline additives such as benzene octane boosters.
With skyrocketing oil prices in the 2000s, ethanol began being seen as a viable answer to reduce gasoline prices, America’s dependence on foreign oil and harmful greenhouse gases.
As a result, the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) was enacted in 2005 and expanded under the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) in 2007, which set, among others, specific amounts of ethanol to be produced and blended annually with gasoline for motor vehicle fuel.
As a result of the RFS and EISA, virtually all domestic motor fuel contains at least 10% ethanol (E10), which can be used by all vehicles. Blends with a higher ratio of ethanol are also sold as E15, E30, E50, E70 and E85.
With the exception of E15, which can be used in all vehicles from 2001 onwards, all higher ethanol blends can only be used by flex fuel vehicles.
The introduction of ethanol into the fuel mix has contributed positively to America, be it in the form of reducing gasoline prices, reducing foreign oil imports, cutting harmful vehicle emissions or boosting the rural economy in ethanol-producing states.
However, ethanol has its share of detractors, specifically from the oil lobby, and various myths and falsehoods about this fuel have been propagated over the years.
You can learn more about ethanol’s many benefits and facts that disprove the many myths surrounding this biofuel in this website.
Some quick facts about ethanol and its relation to Minnesota:
PRODUCTION IN THE UNITED STATES:
Ethanol production has steadily grown over the years. In 2010, it averaged over 13 billion gallons a year. In 2015, production was at 14.81 billion gallons. (Source: www.eia.gov)
CONSUMPTION IN THE UNITED STATES:
As production has grown, so has consumption. In 2015, total consumption was 13.69 billion gallons. (Source: www.eia.gov)
PRODUCTION IN MINNESOTA:
Minnesota's 21 ethanol plants produce an average of 1.1 billion gallons per annum. In 2015, it produced a record 1.2 billion gallons. For more information on Minnesota's plants, please go to Production In Minnesota for a list and the locations of the 21 plants.
TOP ETHANOL PRODUCING STATES:
Iowa, Nebraska, Illinois, Minnesota and South Dakota.
CORN USAGE FOR ETHANOL:
One bushel of corn produces 2.8 gallons of ethanol as well as 18 pounds of dried distillers grains (DDGs) which is a high-protein feed for livestock. Other common co-products include corn oil and CO2, which is used for beverages. In 2014/15, total supply of corn was 15.38 billion billion bushels of which 5.24 billion bushels was used for ethanol and its by-products. (Source: USDA)
Even if no corn oil or CO2 were to be produced, only 68 percent of a bushel of corn is used to produce ethanol. As such, in 2014/15, the amount used to produce ethanol was 3.56 billion bushels or 23 percent of the total supply of corn in the United States.
In 2015, Minnesota's ethanol producers delivered 3.6 million tons of DDGs and 198 million lbs of corn oil. Because of its high-protein content, the USDA estimates that one metric ton of DDGs could effectively replace 1.22 metric tons of animal feed comprising of corn and soybean meal.
According to the a 2016 study by the USDA, ethanol produces at least double the energy required to produce it.
It takes an average of 2.7 gallons of water to produce a gallon of ethanol. In comparison, it takes between 2.1 – 5.4 gallons of water to produce a gallon of crude oil (Source: Argonne National Laboratory).
Ethanol, from the production process to its usage as a fuel, reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 34% to 44% in comparison to gasoline. (Source: Argonne National Laboratory).
PRICES AT THE PUMP:
In 2011, ethanol suppressed the price of gasoline by an average of $1.09 per gallon. In the Midwest alone, it brought prices down by $1.69 per gallon that year. (Source : Iowa State University’s Center for Agriculture and Rural Development)