By: DeEtta Bohling, Communications Specialist
Memorial Day weekend marks the official start of the summer travel season. It is predicted that more than 34 million will travel 50+ miles during the upcoming holiday, up 1.2% compared to last year. As you pull up to the gas station this weekend, I encourage you to choose a clean-burning, high octane motor fuel that is produced from renewable sources- ethanol.
Why? There are a number of reasons I choose ethanol.
#1. Cheaper at the Pump
Corn growers are finishing planting what appears to be a record-breaking corn crop, continuing to meet all needs for food, feed, fiber and fuel. Their hard work is also helping consumers nationwide by keeping fuel prices down.
On May 15, 2012, The Center for Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD) released a study by economists at the University of Wisconsin and Iowa State University examining the impact of increased ethanol consumption on wholesale gasoline prices.
Key conclusions derived from the report include:
–In 2011, ethanol reduced wholesale gasoline prices by an average of $1.09 per gallon.
–Regular grade gasoline prices averaged $3.52 per gallon in 2011, but would have been closer to $4.60 per gallon without the inclusion of more than 13 billion gallons of lower-priced ethanol.
–The average American household consumed 1,124 gallons of gasoline in 2011, meaning ethanol reduced average household spending at the pump by more than $1,200.
–Since 2000, ethanol has kept gasoline prices an average of $0.29 per gallon cheaper than they otherwise would have been.
–Based on the $0.29-per-gallon average annual savings, ethanol has helped save American drivers and the economy more than $477 billion in gasoline expenditures since 2000 – an average of $39.8 billion a year.
#2. Energy Security
Ethanol, created from crops such as corn and grain sorghum is domestically produced which helps to reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil. With ethanol representing 10% of the nation’s motor fuel supply, less petroleum must be reminded to meet America’s fuel needs. With 13.9 billion gallons of domestic ethanol production, the U.S. required 485 million fewer barrels of imported oil in 2011. For perspective, that is a total greater than all the oil we import from Saudi Arabia. Global fossil fuel subsidies reached almost half a trillion dollars in 2010. This figure is up $110 billion over 2009 and could reach $660 billion by 2020.
All oil-related external costs are estimated to be $825 billion per year. The U.S. spends between $27 billion and $137 billion a year on military operations securing the safe delivery of oil from the Persian Gulf, equivalent to adding an extra $1.17 per gallon of gasoline. And new oil supplies are getting harder and more expensive to find. Nonconventional reserves, like Canadian tar sands, pose significant environmental and economic risks.
#3. Environmental Impact
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).
Ethanol has a positive energy balance. Whether produced from corn or other biomass feedstocks, ethanol generates more energy than used during production. Plants used in ethanol production harness the power of the sun to grow. By releasing the energy stored in corn and other feedstocks, ethanol production utilizes solar energy, replacing fossil energy use. A 2010 USDA study of ethanol production – from the field to the vehicle – found that ethanol yields about 40% more fossil energy than is used to grow and harvest the grain and process it into ethanol, even without allowing for the processing component of the byproduct credit. After fully allowing for heat used to produce byproducts, ethanol yields between 90-130% more energy than is used to produce it. Also, according to a University of California-Berkeley study, the production of ethanol reduces petroleum use by about 95% on an energy basis compared to gasoline refining.
#4. Economic Impact
The economic impact of domestic ethanol production is felt far outside the biorefinery. In hundreds of communities across the nation, ethanol production is creating well paying jobs where jobs are too often few and far between. In 2011, the production of 13.9 billion gallons of ethanol supported 90,200 direct jobs and 311,400 indirect jobs all across the country. These are quality jobs in fields like engineering, chemistry, and accounting, that provide a good wage and important benefits. In 2011, ethanol contributed $42.4 billion to the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and added $29.9 billion to household income. Using American ethanol keeps $50 billion in our economy.
#5. Engine Performance
Ethanol, an alcohol fuel, provides high quality, high octane for exceptional engine performance and reduced emissions. Ethanol has been used in cars since Henry Ford designed his 1908 Model T to operate on alcohol. Trillions of miles have been driven on ethanol-blended fuel since 1980. In fact, NASCAR runs on a 15% ethanol blended fuel, called Sunoco Green E15. The American Ethanol used in each and every race is derived from American grown corn.
RCR owner, Richard Childress stated, “Last year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approved E15 for all vehicles built in the last decade, which is more than 80 percent of the cars and trucks on the roads today. I like to think that if E15 is good enough for my racing team, it’s certainly good enough for everyday street cars.”
Headed for the lake this weekend? Did you know you can even use ethanol in your motorboat? Most marine manufacturers have allowed the use of E10 for decades but may specify certain precautionary actions such as a water separator filter. In fact, ethanol is the oxygenate of choice in some water-recreation areas because of its clean air and clean water benefits.
The National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) has indicated that lower level ethanol blends – E10 or lower usually present no major problems. However, they oppose higher blend levels.
There are over 12 million recreational boats in the United States, some of which are vintage watercraft, so it is difficult to make a blanket statement on every make and model year. Most watercraft operate fine on E10. For instance, Honda, Kawasaki, Mercury Marine, OMC (Johnson/Evinrude), Pleasurecraft, Tigershark (Artco), Tracker and Yamaha allow the use of ethanol fuels in their products. Mercury Marine has indicated that their outboard products produced after 1979 should not have problems operating on ethanol. Further, they indicate that MerCruiser products produced after 1987 should not experience problems.
However, it should be noted, there have been isolated reports of materials compatibility issues in some vintage (pre 1980) watercraft. Ultimately, your watercraft operator’s manual should be consulted. For more information on ethanol and your marine equipment, click HERE.
Ethanol is American made and American grown. I hope you’ll join me in supporting U.S. agriculture by filling up with ethanol as you hit the road this Memorial Day weekend. For more information on ethanol and to find a station near you, visit www.chooseethanol.com.
We’d love to see your photos! Snap a photo at the pump of you filling up with ethanol this weekend and upload it to our Facebook page or tweet us @ksgrains for a chance to win a cap, work gloves and other prizes!
More ethanol information:
Kansas Ethanol Production
National Corn Growers Association: Ethanol
Renewable Fuels Association