What is Ethanol?


Ethanol is also called ethyl alcohol, grain alcohol, or drinking alcohol. It is a volatile, flammable, colorless liquid that has a strong characteristic odor. It produces a blue flame and burns without producing any smoke. Fuel-grade ethanol is 200-proof ethyl alcohol denatured with small amount of gasoline (3-5%) to render it non-potable, or unsuitable for human consumption. Such fuel-grade alcohol is later mixed with a larger percentage of unleaded gasoline (usually 10-85 percent) to create fuel for combustion engines. There are two types of ethanol fuel being used in the United Sates today:

  • E10
    E10 is the most common from of ethanol, and is a blend of 10 percent ethanol and 90 percent gasoline. Of the 4 billion gallons of ethanol produced in 2005, the vast majority was used to produce E10 fuel. It is available at gas stations all over the United States and is approved by automobile manufacturers for use in all vehicles built since the 80s.
  • E85
    E85 is a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline. It is a leading alternative fuel used in the U.S. today and can be used in vehicles classified as Flexible Fuel Vehicles (FFVs). By mid-2006, there were about six million such vehicles on U.S. roads. E85 can be purchased at about 1,600 refueling sites in the U.S today.

Because the ethanol molecule contains oxygen, it allows an auto engine to more completely combust fuel, resulting in fewer emissions. Fuel ethanol blends are successfully used in all types of vehicles and engines that require gasoline. Approval of ethanol blends is found in the owners' manuals under references to refueling or gasoline.

What are its benefits?
Ethanol benefits the environment:
The use of ethanol as a fuel additive is good for the environment. Ethanol-fueled vehicles have lower carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide emissions than vehicles fueled with pure gasoline. And, Ethanol replaces MTBE, a proven carcinogenic ground water pollutant, as an oxygenate and octane enhancer in our fuel supply.

Ethanol is easy to use:
Ethanol is more widely available across the U.S. than ever before, and the E10 blend is usable by most every car on the road today with no modifications necessary. The availability of FFVs capable utilizing the E85 blend is growing every year. With more models available from more manufacturers, consumers have plenty of options to choose from, and FFVs have the advantage of being able to use unleaded gasoline, E85, or any combination of the two, giving drivers the ability to change their fuel as availability changes.

Ethanol is good for the economy:
The ethanol production industry supports our farmers and creates jobs for our citizens. It reduces U.S. dependence on foreign oil because it's produced domestically from locally grown crops.