What is ethanol?
Ethanol is an alcohol made from renewable resources such as corn and other cereal grains, food and other beverage wastes and forestry by-products. Ethanol-blended fuel substantially reduces carbon monoxide and volatile organic compound emissions, which are precursors to ozone. The corn-based substance is added to gasoline to reduce oil imports, reduce emissions, increase performance and reduce overall costs of transportation fuels.
What is the U.S. current production capacity for ethanol?
Approximately 13.7 billion gallons.
How many ethanol plants are in operation in the U.S. and in Illinois?
There are 204 ethanol plants in the United States, 14 of which are in Illinois.
How much ethanol does Illinois produce annually?
1.6 billion gallons, which uses 560 million bushels of corn
How much ethanol will one bushel of corn produce?
One bushel of corn produces 2.8 gallons of ethanol in addition to several valuable food and feed co-products. Using only the starch from the corn kernel, the production process results in vitamins, protein, corn oil fiber and other by-products that can be used for food, feed and industrial use.
Ethanol can also be used in several forms to meet the needs of our transportation. A 10% blend of ethanol with gasoline is the most widely available blend. More than 90% of our national gasoline contains 10% ethanol. In Illinois over 95% of our gasoline contains 10% ethanol. E85, a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline, makes an excellent environmentally friendly fuel. Ethanol’s desirable characteristics (higher octane, cleaner burning, less carcinogenic) assure its viability even as new engine technology is developed.
Does ethanol cost more than petroleum?
Ethanol is cost competitive with gasoline while adding octane, reducing omissions and lowering U.S. dependence on foreign oil. More than 60% of our fuel needs are imported today.
What is the blend wall?
The Blend Wall is the name the ethanol industry gives to the concept that, at some point, we run out of gallons of gasoline to blend 10 percent ethanol into. When we get to the point that every single gallon of gasoline contains 10 percent ethanol, the usage of ethanol remains constant until we increase the blend of ethanol to gasoline. This flat line of ethanol usage is the Blend Wall.
( Ethanol fuel will actually reach the blend wall limit before 10% ethanol is in all of the gasoline due to infrastructure issues and location.)
Read more about the blend wall here.
What is the RFS2?
The Renewable Fuel Standard 2 is an update of the original Renewable Fuels Standards of 2007 in which President Obama and the US EPA outlined some specific rules for ethanol production and use.
Click here for more information.
Indirect Land Use: What is it and how is IL Corn Involved?
Indirect Land Use is an unproven idea that has been included as a concept in the Renewable Fuels Standard 2. Trying to speak simply, the US EPA has decided that corn-based ethanol production requires the conversion of more acres to corn production, those acres used to be soybean production and now soybeans must be grown elsewhere, and Brazilians are tearing down the Amazon rainforest in order to grow those additional soybeans.
The end result is that corn-based ethanol is penalized in federal rulemaking for the environmental impact of tearing down the Amazon rainforest.
This concept has very little science behind it. Illinois Corn has been actively fighting the idea, explaining that acres are not being converted to corn production, that corn-based ethanol is not responsible for tearing down the Amazon rainforest, and that this concept should not be the basis for federal policy until more science can be performed.
To read more about the Renewable Fuels Standard 2, click here.
What are the health concerns regarding ethanol?
While ethanol has a higher volatility than gasoline, meaning it vaporizes more quickly, it is a cleaner-burning alternative to petroleum-based octane boosters. Additionally, the toxicity of ethanol is low compared to the health effects of BTEX and its combustion products, such as ultrafine particulates (UFPs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). A modest increase of ethanol content in fuel from 10 to 15 percent would result in an anticipated 6.6 percent reduction in cancer risk from tailpipe emissions.
There is contradictory evidence that increasing ethanol content in gasoline increases nitrous oxide (NOX) emissions, an ozone precursor. Several studies find either no relationship between ethanol blending and NOX emissions, or find decreased NOX emissions with increasing ethanol volumes. Other studies suggest older cars emit more NOX when using ethanol blends. However, a study of 2012 make and model year vehicles found no increase in NOX emissions between E10, E15 and E20 blends, suggesting that both engine design and engine age play a role in NOX emissions. Overall, the effect of ethanol on NOX and carbon monoxide (CO) emissions is minor in newer engine emission control systems.
For information, click here.
What is octane?
The octane rating is a measure of a fuel’s ability to avoid knock. Knock occurs when fuel is prematurely ignited in the engine’s cylinder, which degrades efficiency and can be damaging to the engine. Knock is virtually unknown to modern drivers. This is primarily because fuels contain an oxygenate that prevents knock by adding oxygen to the fuel. This oxygenate is commonly referred to as octane.
At most retail gasoline stations, three octane grades are offered, 87 (regular), 89 (mid-grade), and 91-93 (premium). The higher the octane number, the more resistant the gasoline mixture is to knock. The use of higher octane fuels also enables higher compression ratios, turbocharging, and downsizing/downspeeding—all of which enable greater engine efficiencies and higher performance. Currently, high-octane fuel is marketed as ‘premium,’ but automotive manufacturers have expressed interest in raising the minimum octane pool in the United States to enable smaller, more efficient engines. Doing so would increase vehicle efficiency and lower greenhouse gases through decreased petroleum consumption.
For more information, click here.
Don't we already use gasoline?
Early automakers expressed interest in plant-based alcohol fuels, such as ethanol. Henry Ford designed the first Model T to run on ethanol. But, at the time, gasoline was a much cheaper fuel. Additionally, Standard Oil was “reluctant … to encourage the manufacture and sale of a competitive fuel produced by an industry in no way related to petroleum.” The petroleum industry has controlled the fuels market ever since.
During the 1973 oil embargo, regular unleaded gasoline prices jumped 57 percent and routine gasoline shortages also occurred. These events, and the regulation of many air pollutants, sparked a renewed interest in fuel efficiency, electric vehicles, and renewable fuels such as ethanol, which were seen as ways to meet the new regulations and reduce petroleum consumption. Today, the majority of ethanol in the United States is blended with gasoline to produce E10 (10 percent ethanol, 90 percent gasoline). Over 95 percent of gasoline sold in the United States is E10.
For more information, click here and here.