Ethanol is a crystal clear liquid, but its role as an important biofuel has often been muddied with controversy and misconceptions. A closer look at this high-octane substance, also known as ethyl or grain alcohol, shows an exceptionally promising and versatile fuel whose potential has only begun to be tapped. Ethanol offers a number of advantages compared to gasoline.
Ethanol can be produced from a variety of feedstocks, including plants or plant products, algae, and municipal waste. Using these abundant and renewable American-made feedstocks avoid depleting a single finite resource like petroleum, and make ethanol easy to source, produce, distribute and make available to consumers.
- Ethanol already comprises 10% of the U.S. fuel market
- Corn ethanol dominates the U.S. market, but a number of other so-called “second generation” possibilities are in the pipeline, including ethanol from algae, woody plant matter (cellulosic ethanol), and even garbage.
- Unlike petroleum used to produce gasoline, ethanol feedstocks are infinite and can be replaced
- Existing infrastructure already delivers ethanol to consumers at the pump.
The high-octane performance advantages of ethanol make it suitable to reduce petroleum dependence by displacing gasoline.
- Ethanol’s very high octane rating makes it an ideal blend with gasoline, to boost performance at a low cost, and without the harmful compounds that were traditionally used.
- The addition of ethanol reduces gasoline consumption, stretcheing the petroleum barrel and lessening our dependence on foreign oil.
Human health & safety
Ethanol is the least inherently toxic of the fuels available today. It burns much cleaner than gasoline. And by replacing harmful or toxic chemical additives usually mixed with gasoline, ethanol reduces human exposure to tailpipe carcinogens and to particulates that cause bronchitis and other respiratory health ailments.
- Ethanol is much less toxic than gasoline or other liquid fuels.
- Ethanol can reduce toxic emissions, such as ozone and particulates, that pollute urban areas and increase the incidence of respiratory health ailments.
- As a fuel additive to boost octane in gasoline, ethanol replaces harmful aromatic compounds referred to as BTX (benzene, toluene, xylene). Of these so-called air toxics, benzene in particular is a known carcinogen.
While petroleum affects the environment at every stage of its lifecycle and has a large carbon footprint, ethanol can help to reduce the net environmental impact
- Higher blends of ethanol such as E85 have lower end-to-end greenhouse gas emissions than gasoline.
- Ethanol can reduce the toxic emissions that pollute urban environments.
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