The production of ethanol isn't a brand new thing in United States. On the contrary, ethanol fuel has more than century old tradition in United States. It all started at the end of the 19th century when the famous industrial Henry Ford designed the first car to run on pure ethanol. Throughout his entire life Henry Ford remained a great advocate of ethanol to be used as a fuel for cars.
United States still leads the world in ethanol production with 13.2 billion U.S. liquid gallons being produced in 2010. The ethanol market share in the U.S. gasoline supply is constantly growing, and is now over 10%; in 2007, for instance, ethanol fuel share represented only about 3% of the U.S. gasoline supply.
Most cars on the U.S. roads today can run on blends of up to 10% ethanol, and some U.S. states like Missouri and Minnesota have even mandated the use of 10% ethanol gasoline.
At the start of the year 2009 there were 170 U.S. ethanol distilleries in operation in 26 U.S. states. Today there are more than 200 ethanol distilleries in operation across the United States (there were 204 at the end of 2011).
The majority of U.S. ethanol production still comes from corn. If U.S. continues to significantly expand ethanol production this would lead to large parts of arable land being used for the production of ethanol instead of food. This could lead to major increase in food prices and even more hunger in the world (the food vs. fuel debate).
|Sugarcane field. It is more efficient to produce ethanol fuel from sugarcane than from corn.|
The most common ethanol blend is 85% ethanol (E85), and by the end of 2011, there were more than 10 million E85-compatible vehicles on U.S. roads.
Ethanol industry in big job creator in United States and is currently employing more than 200,000 people.
The 2008 study has estimated that the growth in US ethanol production has caused retail gasoline prices to be US $0.29 to US $0.40 per gallon lower than would otherwise have been the case.
The U.S. ethanol industry needs to improve its efficiency. The domestic ethanol production is significantly less efficient compared to ethanol production in Brazil. Brazil's ethanol is mostly produced from sugarcane, and sugarcane ethanol has an energy balance 7 times greater than ethanol produced from corn.
The question whether current U.S. ethanol production is sustainable or not is still open for debate. While it is true that ethanol is environmentally more friendly option than gasoline the required electricity for many U.S. distilleries still mainly comes from coal, the dirtiest energy source of them all. The large land requirement is also one of the main drawbacks.
In order to overcome these issues, there has been recently plenty of talk about cellulosic ethanol as this would means moving away from food crops and instead using waste residues and native grasses to produce ethanol.