Ethanol - New Century International

By: Sarah Carlye

When gas prices are low, it is easy to be compliant and accept fuel options as they are. When gas prices rise, interest in alternative fuels rises with it. Ethanol is an enviro fuel alternative that has been around a long time. Not only is ethanol an affordable alternative, it is environmentally friendly, can be produced in the United States, and renewable.

Currently (2008) cars cannot run on pure ethanol. Most vehicles can run on a mix of 10% ethanol and 90% gasoline (E10). Almost all gas stations sell the blended gasoline during the colder winter months. Since there is more oxygen in E10, the cleaner burning fuel also burns hotter. This can be problematic during warmer months. As more cars and small motor equipment is produced that can run on E10 and even higher ethanol blends, it is expected that the problems of hotter burning fuel will be drastically reduced and possibly eliminated all together.

In the Midwestern states like Iowa and Minnesota that grow corn, E10 is affordable and available at the many stations that are set up to sell it. In other states it may be less available and can even be more expensive than pure gasoline. As support for alternative fuels grows, this is expected to change with government support like tax breaks for stations that install gas pumps that dispense alternative fuel. The U.S. has already regulated the gas mileage of new vehicles that are being produced, it is expected that regulations requiring cars be able to run on ethanol will be implemented. Brazil has already provided incentives to its ethanol industry. Brazil has set a goal of having all vehicles on its roads able to run on ethanol or gasoline in the next few years. As U.S. citizens become less tolerant of high gas prices and fear the dependency on foreign oil imports, it is expected that the U.S. will follow.

For some, the appeal of ethanol isn’t only in the fact it reduces foreign oil dependency and can be less expensive than pure gasoline, it is the fact that it is so environmentally friendly. The environmental benefits of ethanol includes the following:

* Air pollution reduction-ethanol contains 35 percent oxygen. Adding oxygen to gasoline results in more complete fuel combustion, this reduces harmful tailpipe emissions.
* Non-toxic-ethanol is water soluble and readily biodegradable. Spills don’t poison the ground
* Toxic emissions reduced-tailpipe carbon monoxide emissions reduced as much as 30%, exhaust VOC (volatile organic compound) emissions reduced as much as 12%, toxic emissions by 30%, greenhouse gas emissions reduced by 12%-19%.

In times of economic hardship the country looks to new investment, new manufacturing, and the implementation of new ideas to give the economy a boost. Creating ethanol plants can be the answer to all three of these ways to boost the economy. Building fuel ethanol production facilities sparks capital investment, economic development, and job creation in communities across the country.

The effects of ethanol on the economy include the following:

* Fuel related investments are kept in the United States
* Creation of nearly 130,600 jobs in all sectors of U.S. economy have been supported by the ethanol industry
* 30-40 new, high-paying jobs can be created in each local community from each ethanol plant that is developed and built in a community
* $2 billion annual reduction in the U.S. trade deficit
* Domestic self-sufficiency (home-grown, renewable fuel)

By increasing ethanol production by 5 billion gallons annually the following economics benefits could be created:

* 214,000 jobs
* $5.3 billion in new investment in renewable fuel production facilities
* $51.7 billion increase household income

The use of ethanol directly affects imports of foreign oil and toxic gasoline additives, including methyl-tertiary-butyl-ether (MTBE). In fact is that U.S. produced ethanol reduces the need to import 128,000 barrels a day of oil and MTBE. That means for every 23.8 gallons of ethanol blended with gasoline, Americans displace one barrel of imported oil. It is estimated that if the U.S. used 50% or 85% ethanol in gasoline that the foreign oil consumption would drop dramatically and significantly enhance U.S. security. The U.S. imports 62% of its petroleum needs and with no changes it is estimated that by the Energy Information Administration, that by 2025, the U.S. will import 77% of its petroleum. It is no secret that two-thirds of the world’s known oil reserves are located in the volatile Middle East. The U.S. spends roughly $50 billion each year for military protection of Middle East oil supplies. Those who feel there is no money for development of alternative fuels should look into redistributing that nearly $50 billion so that it can be used at home in America.

Ethanol blended gasoline is just the start to making the most of the environmental and economic benefits of ethanol use as a fuel.

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