Why is Ethanol Important?

U.S. Ethanol Industry Has Grown by Leaps and Bounds

Why is Ethanol Important?

U.S. Ethanol Industry Has Grown by Leaps and Bounds

The U.S. ethanol industry has grown from a handful of small plants producing 175 million gallons in 1980 to 210 plants in 27 states producing a record 16.1 billion gallons of ethanol in 2018. Today, we make up slightly more than 10 percent of the U.S. gasoline supply.

Ethanol Plants are Creating Jobs and Helping Fuel the U.S. Economy

In 2018, the industry directly employed 71,367 American workers and supported an additional 294,516 indirect and induced jobs across the economy. Nearly one in four of those workers is a veteran of the U.S. military. The ethanol industry generated $46 billion in gross domestic product last year and boosted household income by $25 billion.

Boosting Rural Economies

Ethanol and feed co-product production provide a valuable market for corn grown in the United States. A typical dry mill ethanol plant adds nearly $2 of additional value – or 55 percent – to every bushel of corn processed.

2019 Ethanol Facts Video

Ethanol is a win for all Americans.

Ethanol is a win for all Americans.

Driving Energy Independence

It’s more affordable than traditional gasoline, reduces harmful vehicle emissions, supports nearly 300,000 American jobs and protects America’s energy independence. In 2018, ethanol displaced nearly 600 million barrels of crude oil and petroleum import dependence fell to just 14 percent compared to 60 percent in 2005. Without ethanol, petroleum import dependence would have been 20 percent in 2018.

Producing Food AND Fuel

Ethanol biorefineries make more than fuel; they also generate highly nutritious animal feed like distillers grains. One-third of every bushel processed by a plant is used to make animal feed, resulting in the production of more than 41.3 million metric tons of feed in 2018 alone. The low cost and nutritional properties of distillers grains make it one of the most sought-after feed ingredients in the world.

A Cleaner, Greener Fuel

Ethanol is responsible for removing the carbon equivalent of 20 million cars from the road. At the same time, the environmental impacts of producing ethanol have been greatly reduced. Natural gas and electricity use at dry mill ethanol plants has fallen nearly 40 percent 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 percent 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 40-45 percent compared to gasoline–even when hypothetical land use change emissions are included. By displacing hydrocarbon substances like aromatics in gasoline, ethanol also helps reduce emissions of air toxics, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, nitrous oxides, and exhaust hydrocarbons.

Boosting Efficiency

Today’s producers get more ethanol out of every bushel. On average, 1 bushel of corn (56 pounds) processed by a dry mill ethanol plant produces: 2.86 gallons of denatured fuel ethanol; 15.9 pounds of distillers grains animal feed; 0.75 pounds of corn distillers oil; and 16.5 pounds of biogenic carbon dioxide.Providing More Consumer Options We know Americans are looking for more competition and greater savings for the fuel that powers their vehicles. Nearly all U.S. gasoline today contains 10 percent ethanol, and the use of 15 percent ethanol blends and flex fuels like E85 is increasing. 15 percent ethanol blends (E15) are higher quality fuels that offer greater savings. Today, E15 is available at over 1,500 stations in more than half the country. The EPA has approved E15 use in more than 90 percent of the existing U.S. auto fleet, and 9 out of 10 new cars carry the manufacturer’s warranty and approval for E15. Beyond E10 and E15, flex fuels like E85 (85 percent ethanol) are sold at more than 4,500 retail stations.

Expanding Global Markets

The United States is the world’s leading ethanol producer. Even in the face of new trade barriers in key markets, U.S. ethanol exports surged to a new record of more than 1.6 billion gallons in 2018. U.S. ethanol was shipped to Canada, Brazil, India, South Korea and the Philippines and many other countries in 2018.

Future Innovation

Today’s ethanol biorefinery operates much like a chemical refinery, able to produce multiple renewable fuels and products. Some biorefineries are producing biodiesel and renewable diesel from corn distillers oil, but the largest impact has been in corn kernel fiber production. The addition of “bolt-on” technologies has allowed ethanol producers to expand yields by processing ethanol from corn fiber, a cellulosic portion of the grain. Unleashing corn kernel fiber ethanol production could result in existing ethanol plants producing hundreds of millions of gallons of cellulosic ethanol.