Ethanol is a renewable, earth-friendly biofuel made from plants that reduces greenhouse gas and other harmful pollutant emissions. Most ethanol is currently made from corn and sorghum, but new technologies allow ethanol to be created from other materials like wood chips and agricultural waste.

Ethanol is blended into gasoline – 98 percent of the gasoline sold in the U.S. includes 10 percent ethanol. Ethanol burns cleaner and cooler than oil, which is good for our environment and our car engines. And the higher the ethanol content in gasoline, the greater the benefits.

Ethanol is an advanced biofuel keeping our air clean and our engines running smoothly.

E15 & E85

Ethanol is moving America forward every day. Right now, almost every gas station in America sells a 10 percent blend, but many more are starting to offer E15, known to consumers as Unleaded 88, which is a gasoline blended with 15 percent ethanol.

Already, gas stations in 31 states offer E15, giving drivers a better, more affordable choice at the pump. In areas where higher blends are available, E15 is less expensive than E10 by up to 10 cents on average.

E15 is a high-performance fuel that increases horsepower while burning cleaner and cooler than regular gasoline. The Department of Energy tested 86 vehicles for a total of six million miles using E15 without a single fuel-related problem. In 2011, it was approved by the EPA for all vehicles 2001 and newer – nearly 9 out of 10 cars on the road today. And many automakers – including all the Big Three – now explicitly warranty E15 for all new models.

Drivers appreciate having a choice at the pump, and they have driven more than 75 billion miles using E15. NASCAR mechanics agree, which is why they’ve trusted higher ethanol blends for over 15 million miles on the race track.

Gasoline blended with more than 15 percent or more ethanol is considered a “higher ethanol blend.” The most common high-level blend is E85, which can contain a mix of 51 to 83 percent ethanol and the remainder is gasoline. It is a popular, affordable option for flex-fuel vehicle owners.

The Environment

Ethanol is an earth-friendly biofuel that cuts carbon emissions by an average of 46 percent, and this percentage continues to increase with ongoing innovations.

Ethanol also replaces harmful carcinogens and toxic additives like MTBE and benzene that can be found in petroleum-based fuels, while providing a naturally high octane. Chemicals replaced by ethanol also include toxic aromatics, like xylene, and carbon monoxide which forms ozone in the sunlight and contribute to smog in urban communities. Thanks to ethanol, there are fewer toxic, dirty chemicals in our fuel, water, and our air.

In addition, biofuel production has driven farmers to make more efficient use of existing cropland, supplying consumer markets with more food and energy than ever before while protecting grasslands and forests. In fact, American farmers are growing record-breaking harvests on less land than was under cultivation in the 1930s. Between 1980 and 2011 alone, the amount of land required to produce one bushel of corn fell by 30 percent.

Energy Security

Today, the U.S. consumes 19 million barrels of oil per day. About one-fourth of that is still imported from other countries. Fortunately, ethanol is helping to reduce our reliance on foreign energy, already meeting more than 10 percent of our motor fuel needs.

In fact, every new truckload of American ethanol displaces more than 60 barrels of imported oil. That’s a major reason why our dependence on oil imports has fallen by more than half since 2005 – the year the Renewable Fuel Standard was enacted. But gasoline consumption is on the rise, and more must be done.

Ethanol can help meet that growing demand. In 2016 alone, biofuels displaced 510 million barrels of oil. Best of all, thanks to the RFS, in 2020 the ethanol industry created and supported approximately 300,000 American jobs.

Economic Impact

Ethanol production is a pillar of economic strength for communities across the American heartland.

Back in in 2005, the ethanol industry contributed $17.7 billion to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and supported 153,725 American jobs. By 2020, the industry had grown to support over 300,000 U.S. jobs.

These investments in U.S. biofuel production continue to grow. U.S. ethanol producers began 2017 at record-breaking production levels – over one million barrels per day. This homegrown fuel is now blended into 98 percent of our fuel supply, meeting more than 10 percent of our motor fuel needs.

Ethanol also supports competition at the pump, helping U.S. drivers save money on fuel – up to $0.10 per gallon during the last surge in oil prices. In total, these renewable fuels cut consumer costs between $700 billion and $2.6 trillion in 2013.

America’s commitment to renewable fuels also has made the U.S. a global leader in clean energy. As the world’s top ethanol exporter, America now supplies more than one billion gallons of fuel ethanol to our trading partners annually, an increase of 26 percent from the previous year. These exports provide a vital market for U.S. farmers and help keep America competitive in the global economy. American ethanol also serves an important role in nations like China, India, Brazil, Mexico, and South Korea, where it provides an alternative to toxic gasoline additives and helps to reduce air pollution in communities where air pollution remains a major threat to public health.

Engine Performance

Today, ethanol is everywhere you buy gasoline – 98 percent of the fuel sold in the U.S. includes 10 percent ethanol.

Ethanol has a naturally high octane rating – 113 – and helps engines run cooler, run longer, and make better horsepower gains.

Increasingly, retailers are offering higher blends, like E15, or Unleaded 88 which provide consumers with a cleaner, more affordable option at the gas pump. UNL88 is the most tested fuel in history. It has been approved by the EPA for all vehicles 2001 and newer – nearly 9 out of 10 cars on the road today. And most automakers – including all the Big Three – now explicitly warranty UNL88 for all new models.

Drivers are happy to have a choice at the pump, and they have driven more than 75 billion miles using UNL88. And NASCAR mechanics agree, which is why they’ve trusted higher ethanol blends for over 15 million miles on the race track.

The extra power offered by ethanol also means that modern engines can actually see a fuel efficiency gain from even higher ethanol blends.

In short, ethanol is a 21st century fuel that works well in all 21st century cars. As consumers learn more, they are excited to have renewable, homegrown options that help to clean the air and cut our dependence on foreign oil.

Ethanol & Small / Marine Engine Performance

  • Almost all small, marine and off-road engines can handle E10 and are expressly approved for use in their owner’s manuals.
  • E15 is not approved for small, marine and offroad engines. EPA has formalized a misfueling mitigation rule specifically meant to prevent consumer misfueling.
  • E10 is available at every E15 station in the country. In fact, many locations around heavy boating locations have non-oxygenated gasoline as a choice for small, marine and offroad operators.
  • Recreational marine vessels account for less than one percent of U.S. gasoline consumption.
  • While ethanol is clean and renewable, oil spills can harm marine ecosystems for decades. Ethanol is biodegradable.
  • More than 97 percent of U.S. gasoline contains up to 10 percent ethanol to boost octane or meet air quality requirements

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Next Generation of Biofuels

Thanks to ethanol, the future is bright. Today, new technologies allow ethanol to be created from agricultural waste, and research at the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory shows that these advanced biofuels can curb carbon emissions by 100 percent – or even sequester carbon over time.

New cellulosic facilities represent a transformational shift in the way America powers its economy. Already online and producing, these advanced biorefineries create a new revenue stream for rural communities, while turning cobs, stalks and other leftovers into high-value energy. According to conservative estimates by the DOE, America can produce enough bioenergy to displace a quarter of all transportation fuels by 2040. And the majority of that energy will come from plant material such as agricultural residues, perennial grasses and algae.

This is an area where America is leading the way, thanks to the steadfast commitment of investors, scientists, and policymakers who recognize that the next generation of biofuel is the key cleaning the air and protecting consumers.

Ethanol Production

Multiple Products
Ethanol production makes more than fuel — it also creates highly-valued co-products. Ethanol producers continue to find new markets for these co-products.

The primary product made is ethanol, a high-oxygen octane-enhancer. Ethanol is blended with gasoline and sold at retail filling stations across the country.

Distiller’s Grains (DDGs)
Distiller’s Grains are a healthy, low-cost animal feed. Ethanol production only removes the starch from the corn kernel. The remainder — protein, fiber and oils — are collected and distributed as a nutritious, low-cost animal feed that replaces a higher volume of field corn, thereby saving money for livestock producers.

Corn Oil
More than 80 percent of dry mill ethanol plants are able to extract corn oil which may be used as a biodiesel feedstock or a feed ingredient.

Carbon Dioxide
During the process of distilling ethanol, fermentation releases carbon gases. Some ethanol plants capture those carbon gases and sell that to soda and beverage companies for carbonation.

Other Products
Products in development include specialty proteins to be used as natural edible coatings or biopolymers that can replace protein based plastics.

Fact Sheets

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