Ethanol. About 96 percent of all gasoline sold in the United States is blended with some percentage of ethanol. What exactly is ethanol you might ask? And why does it affect me? Let’s take a look.

corn in tankEthanol is an alcohol made from renewable resources such as corn and other cereal grains, food and other beverage wastes and forestry by-products. Here in the United States, corn is the dominant grain used in the processing of ethanol. The corn-based substance is added to gasoline to reduce the amount imported by the United States.

So when you are at the gas pump and read the sticker that says, “May contain up to 10% ethanol” now you have a better understanding of what you’re buying! But you may still ask yourself why this is a big deal, so let us talk some numbers and see if I can make you more aware or even change your opinion about this corn-based gas.

10% ethanol

Since 2008, our economy has been struggling to get itself back up from a recession that can arguably be named the worst since the Great Depression. Our job market is slim to none and for those who are lucky enough to have work, they still pay a small fortune to get back and forth from their home. But, there are 204 ethanol plants in the United States that employed 383,000 people in all sectors of the economy in 2012 alone. What a deal right? And with 13.9 billion gallons of domestic ethanol production, the U.S required 485 million fewer barrels of imported oil in 2011. So not only is ethanol providing jobs to our economy it’s making us less dependent on the world for our resources.

emissionsWhat do you think now? Maybe looking at the environmental factors could be even more persuading? In recent years, there has been a profound movement in the United States to go green and protect our environment. The use of E-85, which is a concentration of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline that can be used in all flex fuel vehicles, has resulted in a reduction in greenhouse emissions of nearly 40% and exhaust volatile organic compounds (VOC) emissions by 12%. Not only is it helping with our air pollution but ethanol also uses less water than gasoline during processing. 3 to 1 margin to be exact!

But many consumers argue that using ethanol in their vehicles reduces their gas mileage. Although this statement is true, let’s not get too ahead of ourselves. As long as E-85 is priced at 20% cheaper than regular unleaded gasoline you will actually be close if not breaking even at the pump. When E-85 is priced at more than 20% less than regular unleaded, although you make a couple more trips to the gas station than normal, you are actually saving yourself some money. Ethanol reduced the average American household’s spending on gasoline by more than $1,200 last year. That’s your hard earned money still in your pocket.

So, when standing at the pump.. faced with the decision to choose regular gasoline or a more blended ethanol product, remember what ethanol is: An alcohol based product that reduces the amount of natural resources used to power your vehicle and keeps some extra cash in your pocket!

jason barrowJason Barrow
Illinois State University student

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