Issues & Resources
Decades ago, Henry Ford proposed that ethanol become the primary fuel for automobile engines. However, it wasn't until the early 1970s that ethanol began to enter the U.S. fuel supply in quantity. Typically, ethanol is blended with ordinary unleaded gasoline to create a blend that provides increased octane, lower exhaust emissions and helps keep fuel injectors clean. The two primary ethanol blends available are E-10 Unleaded (10% ethanol/90% ordinary gasoline) and E85 (85% ethanol/15% ordinary gasoline.) The use of E-10 Unleaded is approved by every major automaker in the world. And every year, more and more flexible fuel vehicles (FFVs) are on the road--providing drivers with the opportunity to use any combination of ordinary gasoline, E-10 Unleaded, or E85--over 140,000 in Nebraska alone!
Ethanol is a high octane liquid fuel produced by the fermentation of plant sugars. In the United States, ethanol is usually made from corn, sorghum and other grain products. However, in the future other biomass resources such as forestry and agricultural waste, switchgrass, or crops especially for energy use will be used.
Ethanol, also known as ethyl alcohol, is a clear, colorless, flammable oxygenated fuel. When added to ordinary unleaded gasoline, ethanol increases the oxygen content of the fuel—helping it burn cleaner and cooler. Ethanol is typically blended with gasoline at volume levels of 5.7%, 7.7% or 10%. The use of ethanol blends up to and including 10% ethanol is approved by every major automaker in the world. Many vehicles can operate on blends of up to 85% ethanol (E85).
Ethanol offers a number of benefits to Nebraska and America:
- Cleaner Air
The use of ethanol in transportation fuel reduces toxic emissions in engine exhaust and reduces greenhouse gases (GHG) in emissions as well. Some experts have estimate ethanol lowers lifecycle GHG anywhere from 17% to 65%.
- Reduced Dependence on Foreign Oil
Ethanol is made from renewable resources we grow right here at home, thus reducing our dangerous dependence on imported oil.
- Increased Value for Agriculture
Ethanol production adds value to grain grown by American farmers, helping reduce federal subsidy payments and adding economic activity in rural areas of the country. High value livestock feed is a co-product of ethanol production and has fast become a feed of choice for cattle producers in Nebraska.
- Higher Octane
Ethanol adds two to three points of octane to ordinary unleaded gasoline, helping improve engine performance. Gas Line De-Icer Ethanol suspends moisture in fuel lines, eliminating the need for gas tank additives in cold weather. Cleaner Fuel Injectors Ethanol helps prevent the build-up of power-robbing deposits in fuel injection systems and keeps important engine components cleaner.
E-10 Unleaded is a blend of 10% ethanol and 90% ordinary unleaded gasoline. This blend is the most common across the United States—and represents nearly 50% of the gasoline sold in Nebraska.
Every automaker in the world approves the use of E-10 Unleaded under warranty. In fact, some automakers even recommend the use of clean air, renewable fuels such as E-10 Unleaded for their positive environmental benefits.
E-10 Unleaded can also be used in small engines such a lawn mowers, all-terrain vehicles, motor boats, chain saws, lawn trimmers and other such equipment.
The Nebraska Ethanol Board, in cooperation with the Nebraska Corn Board and Nebraska Corn Growers Association, developed the “Let’s Get With It, Nebraska!” campaign to promote the use of E-10 Unleaded in the state. The campaign, which was launched by Governor Mike Johanns in fall 2000, has helped increase market share for E-10 Unleaded in Nebraska from 22% to nearly 50%.
Unlike petroleum-based fossil fuels that are in limited supply, ethanol is a renewable fuel made from plants we grow right here in America.
According to Argonne National Laboratory, the use of ethanol-blended fuels reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 12 to 19% compared to conventional gasoline. It is estimated that, during 2003, ethanol use in the U.S. reduced greenhouse gas emissions at a level equivalent to removing 853,000 cars from the nation’s highways.
Because ethanol contains oxygen and helps fuel combust more completely, the use of ethanol in automotive fuel:
- Reduces tailpipe carbon monoxide emissions by as much as 30%
- Reduces exhaust VOC emissions by 12%
- Reduces particulate emissions, especially fine particulates that are especially hazardous to children, seniors and those with respiratory disease
Ethanol blended gasoline has helped dozens of American cities comply with federal clean air standards. In fact, the American Lung Association of Metropolitan Chicago credits ethanol-blended gasoline with reducing smog-forming emissions by 25% since 1990.
The U.S. currently imports 62% of its petroleum. That figure is expected to rise to 77% by 2025—unless America gets more serious about finding domestic sources of energy.
In addition to the cost of purchasing imported oil, the U.S. spends about $50 billion each year for military protection of Middle East oil supplies—and billions more in government subsidies to the oil industry.
Making ethanol a more important part of our nation’s energy supply is clearly in our best interests—both economically and in terms of energy security. Ethanol use already reduces the U.S. trade deficit by $2 billion each year—and the jobs created by this homegrown energy industry are generating tax dollars and economic vitality.
Additionally, the increased use of ethanol will help reduce the need for agricultural subsidies—and America’s energy dollars will go to domestic producers rather than to members of the foreign oil cartels.
There is no question: Ethanol helps put more control in America’s hands—and makes us less susceptible to the whims and politics of overseas oil producing countries.
A number of reputable, independent studies have underscored the undeniable fact that ethanol produces more energy than it takes to produce it—about 1.67 to 1. Studies by USDA, the University of Nebraska and Argonne National Laboratory, to name a few, have all determined that ethanol production yields about a third more energy that is used to grow, irrigate and harvest the corn; transport the corn; and manufacture the ethanol.
Significant advances in ethanol production have helped make this possible. Modern ethanol plants are producing 15% more ethanol from a bushel of corn—and using 20% less energy to do so—than just five years ago.
Distillers grains are a high value livestock feed that are a co-product of dry mill ethanol production. Corn gluten feed is produced at Nebraska’s two wet milling ethanol plants. Both of these products have been critical to the success and profitability of Nebraska ethanol plants because of the size and proximity of Nebraska’s cattle industry. The immediate availability of a market for these feed products has been a major factor in attracting the ethanol industry to Nebraska.
It hasn’t just been ethanol producers who have benefited. Feeding these co-products to cattle generates an economic benefit of more than $52 million to Nebraska each year. Thanks to feeding trials sponsored in part by the Nebraska Ethanol Board, DDG and corn gluten feed have become widely accepted among Nebraska’s beef producers as a preferred ingredient in their animal rations.
Ethanol is reducing food costs by lowering gas prices.
According to one analyst from Merrill Lynch, ethanol lowers gas and oil prices by 15%. Another study by Iowa State University found that ethanol reduces gas prices by at least 29 to 40 cents per gallon.
Rising energy costs play the dominant role in the price of food because raw ingredients like corn comprise only 20% of the price of food. The other 80% is shipping, packaging, processing and advertising costs.
In 2007, food prices increased only 4.6% while energy prices have increased 26.4%, according to the Consumer Price Index Report. The president of OPEC, Chakib Khelil, has stated oil could easily reach $200 per barrel within two years.
A driver who buys E10 can save at least ten cents a gallon—and that can add up to hundreds of savings in one year. But eliminating ethanol from the U.S. fuel supply would instantly cause gasoline prices to soar an additional $1.10 per gallon over the current price, according to economist John Urbanchuck.
When the average animal travels over a thousand miles from producer to plate, it’s clear that oil and gas prices are pushing up the cost of everything. Oil companies are scrambling for a scapegoat while they rake in billions every month. Consumers who choose ethanol fuels at the pump will save money compared to those who opt for conventional gasoline. We expect Nebraska motorists to save nearly $70 million by using ethanol,” said Sneller.
Even with increased demand for corn for food and fuel, the net output of feed corn and distillers grains has increased 26 percent in the last five years. There is enough corn grown in the U.S. to meet ethanol demand, increase exports and still stockpile a 10% surplus. Nebraska farmers and ethanol producers are providing food, feed and fuel for Nebraska and the nation.