Ethanol Facts: Environment

Ethanol is one of the best tools we have to fight air pollution from vehicles. And there is no fuel available at scale today that matches ethanol’s ability to improve overall environmental quality compared to gasoline. From its biodegradable nature to reductions in greenhouse gas and tailpipe emissions, ethanol provides a tool to address environmental concerns without requiring an entirely new way for goods and people to get from one place to another. Ethanol contains 35% oxygen. Adding oxygen to fuel results in more complete fuel combustion, reducing harmful tailpipe emissions. Ethanol also displaces the use of toxic gasoline components such as benzene, a carcinogen. Ethanol is non-toxic, water soluble and quickly biodegradable. Ethanol is a renewable fuel produced from plants, unlike petroleum-based fossil fuels that have a limited supply and are the major contributor of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, a greenhouse gas (GHG).

FACT: Using ethanol in place of gasoline helps to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by an average of 34% compared to gasoline.

Because ethanol is made from renewable, plant-based feedstocks, the CO2 released during a vehicle’s fuel combustion is “recycled” during the growth of ethanol feedstocks. According to the Department of Energy’s GREET model, average corn ethanol reduces GHG emissions by 34% compared to gasoline – even when hypothetical land use emissions are considered. Without indirect emissions, average corn ethanol decreases GHG emissions by 44%.

FACT: In 2013, the 13.3 billion gallons of ethanol produced reduced greenhouse gas emissions from on-road vehicles by 38 million metric tons. That’s equivalent to removing 8 million cars from the road.

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FACT: New technologies are increasing ethanol yields, improving efficiencies and allowing ethanol biorefineries to make better use of natural resources.

In less than 20 years, the industry has dramatically reduced the environmental impacts of producing ethanol. The amount of thermal energy required to make a gallon of ethanol has fallen 36% since 1995, while electricity use is down 38%. At the same time, producers are squeezing 12% more ethanol out of every bushel of corn.

– Courtesy of: Renewable Fuels Association