Why Ethanol is Used as a Fuel
Ethanol is a lower cost and more environmentally friendly fuel additive for gasoline. Ethanol is made up of oxygen, hydrogen and carbon and produces significantly less in greenhouse gas emissions than the other additives in gasoline.
You are already filling up your car with 10% ethanol. Almost all fuel that’s labeled regular or unleaded contains 10% ethanol. This means that you are already helping the environment, but, higher ethanol blends are available. They are even more environmentally friendly and more cost-effective per gallon.
Higher Ethanol Blends
If you are interested in filling up with a cleaner fuel, higher blends of ethanol are becoming more readily available. E15, a 15% blend is the fastest growing ethanol blend. Other blends such as E20, E30 and E85 have more limited availability but are usually more cost-effective and have higher octane. This variety of options means you can choose the ethanol blend that best suits your needs. There is no noticeable mileage loss with most higher ethanol blends. E85 contains the highest level of ethanol, it is the most environmentally sustainable option. However, this is the blend where you will see a mileage loss it should only be used in Flex Fuel vehicles.
A Cost-Effective Alternative
It’s a great time to switch to a higher ethanol blend, as they are becoming more widely available and comfortably beat gasoline for price per gallon. For example, premium gasoline usually costs between 40 and 60 cents more than regular gasoline. Yet a premium ethanol blend is usually 5-10 cents less than regular gasoline.
Ethanol blends have the ability to increase octane ratings in gasoline. The higher the ethanol content of a fuel, the higher the octane. Whereas E10 typically has an octane rating of 87, E15 has a rating of 88 and E85 is 108. This means they can be used in powerful, high-compression engines. E85 produces the highest-octane rating, but mid-level blends such as E20 and E30 also produce higher octane ratings than regular gasoline.
Ethanol is produced from corn, meaning organic matter. This means that it is a renewable fuel. Ethanol is therefore an environmentally friendly, sustainable option.
While using ethanol as a fuel does produce emissions, it is a much cleaner alternative to the toxics currently being added to gasoline. This is because the biomass used to make ethanol absorbs carbon dioxide. Increasing the level of clean burning ethanol in our gasoline improves air quality and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
Dangerous Aromatics in Gasoline
Aromatics are the chemicals used in gasoline to boost octane. Organizations including the Environmental and Energy Study Institute, the University of California, Riverside and Urban Air Initiative have carried out research demonstrating that many commonly used aromatics are damaging to our air quality and our health. The common use of aromatics such as benzene, toluene and xylene are linked to heart disease, low birth weight and asthma. Ethanol is a cleaner alternative to these dangerous aromatics. It provides a higher octane and reduces toxic tailpipe emissions by reducing the number of aromatics in gasoline.
Looking at the emissions of ethanol, it is important to use a life-cycle analysis. This means taking into consideration each stage of the product’s use, including farming practices, production, distribution and consumer use. This action is known as “field to tank” and “tank to wheels”. A study conducted in 2019 by the USDA found that using corn-based ethanol instead of gasoline results in a 39% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. This is an extremely substantial difference with significant implications for our health and environmental sustainability. Ethanol produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions both during production and from the tailpipe during use.
Great Reasons to Switch to Ethanol
As you can see, there are great reasons to make an ethanol blend your fuel of choice. It is significantly cheaper than gasoline per gallon. It is also a more environmentally friendly alternative and significantly reduces carbon and tailpipe emissions. Ethanol blends also produce higher octane ratings, increasing your engine power.