2 Topic 8 Ethanol What is it? Where does it come from? How is it produced?Answers to these and other questions about this very important subject can be found at:
3 What is it?Ethanol is a grain alcohol that can be blended with gasoline and used in motor vehicles.Currently nearly all gasoline is what is called 90/10 blend of petroleum and ethanol. There is also E-85 which has as much as 85% ethanol mixed with gasoline. This is for use in vehicle specially modified to run this ratio.
4 Where does it come from?In the Midwest, ethanol is produced from corn. This is was a result of the farmers producing more corn than they needed.In the southern states sugar cane is used to produce ethanol.
5 How is it produced?Most of the newer ethanol plants are known as "dry grind" plants. This means the grain (corn) is ground dry and then water is added to create the mash, which is then run through the cooking and fermenting process.The process to create ethanol is very similar to the process for producing alcohol for human consumption.It takes approximately 3 gallons of water to produce 1 gallon of ethanol, conversely it takes approx. 44 gallons of water to produce a gallon of gasoline.
6 Food Versus FuelOnly about 10 percent of corn is used for human consumption. The majority is used for animal food, ethanol and export markets.Since only the starch of the corn is used, a byproduct of ethanol production is distillers grain. This is very high in fiber and is used mainly to feed beef and dairy cattle. It can also be used to feed poultry and swine.Distillers grain is wet and very perishable therefore it is normally not transported more than 100 miles.It can be dried for longer life and transportability, but this adds greatly to the ethanol producers utilities cost.
7 Other products for use in producing Ethanol Researchers are exploring ways to make ethanol from other feed stocks or plant materials.Feed stocks are also known as biomass and include corn stover (leaves and stalks of the corn plant), corncobs, and wheat straw, perennial grasses, wood chips (including waste from the forestry and paper industries), and waste from food manufacturing.Waste from our communities such as garbage, shredded paper, and wood waste is being considered also.Researchers from around the world are evaluating plant materials that grow in their region for cellulosic ethanol production potential
8 Ethanol versus Gasoline Ethanol has a higher octane rating than gasoline. This makes it an excellent knock preventer.It takes as much as 1.5 times more ethanol to cover a distance as gasoline.There is a finite amount of petroleum left to convert to gasoline.Ethanol is hygroscopic (it attracts water) and can encourage rust in older steel storage vessels.Ethanol can cause problems on older vehicles due to the composition of their filters, tanks and hoses.Ethanol is clean burning.
9 Ethics Is it right to use grain for ethanol during an extreme drought? This article talks about livestock producers trying to stop grain from going to ethanol production so their costs don’t rise.