Why is Ethanol Important?
The U.S. ethanol industry has grown from a handful of small plants producing 350 million gallons to well over 200 plants producing a record 14.8 billion gallons of ethanol in 2015.
Today, we make up 10% of the U.S. gasoline supply, up from less than 1% just over 20 years ago.
Driving Energy Independence
Blended in 97% of gasoline today, all across the country, ethanol is driving energy independence. In 2015, ethanol displaced gasoline refined from 527 million barrels of crude oil, slightly more than the amount of oil imported annually from Saudi Arabia.
Clean Fuel for a Cleaner Planet
Today’s ethanol producers get more ethanol out of every bushel and use less energy and water to do it. Over the past two decades, the environmental impacts of producing ethanol have been greatly reduced. Meanwhile, the ecological impacts of petroleum extraction, refining and use continue to worsen.
Natural gas and electricity use at dry mill ethanol plants has fallen nearly 40% since 1995, while consumptive water use has been cut in half.
This has occurred while the amount of ethanol produced from a bushel has increased. Producers are getting 15% more ethanol from a bushel of corn than 20 years ago.
The result? A smaller carbon footprint and an increase in energy efficiency. Ethanol use reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 40-50% compared to gasoline. Ethanol also reduces emissions of particulate matter, carbon monoxide, and volatile organic compounds, displacing toxic aromatics such as benzene and toluene. And ethanol’s energy balance is continually improving, 1 unit of energy invested in making ethanol yields up to 2.3 units of energy available to the consumer.
Ethanol is the cleanest and most affordable source of octane on the market today.
An Invaluable Economic Engine
Ethanol plants are important economic engines in rural America. In 2015, ethanol production supported 85,967 direct jobs, as well as 271,440 indirect and induced jobs across all sectors of the economy. The industry added $44 billion to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product and boosted household income by $24 billion.
Ethanol industry jobs have proven to be stable, well-paid, fulfilling and safe.
And consumers benefit from reduced fuel prices.
Feeding the World
Ethanol plants make more than fuel. They generate highly nutritious animal feed. 1/3 of every bushel processed by a plant is used to make animal feed. Ethanol uses only the starch in the grain. Protein, fat and fiber components are made into animal feed, such as distillers grains. In 2015, the industry produced an estimated 40 million metric tons of feed. That’s the equivalent of producing nearly 50 billion quarter-pound hamburger patties – or seven patties for every person on the planet!
While most ethanol today is produced from grain, the next wave of advanced ethanol facilities is using a new generation of feedstocks. These include prairie grass, switchgrass, agriculture residue like corn stover, wood chips, wood and paper waste, municipal solid waste and woody biomass bagasse.
2014 saw the first commercial scale cellulosic ethanol production facilities become a reality, with the opening of several facilities in Iowa and Kansas.
Cellulosic ethanol promises to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 110% compared with gasoline. Many of these plants will also produce electricity.
The future is very bright for consumers everywhere to access the energy, environmental and economic benefits of renewable fuels.