Over the last three decades, ethanol made from corn has become an important fuel in Wisconsin and across the country. Biofuels like corn-based ethanol directly replace petroleum-based fuels – and they’re renewable. Ethanol is better for the environment, helps keep fuel dollars here at home and it supports rural communities because that’s where most ethanol is produced.
Wisconsin’s eight ethanol plants produce more than 500 million gallons a year – making Wisconsin the ninth-largest ethanol producing state in the country. These plants use more than 180 million bushels of corn each year – about 37 percent of the state’s corn crop. Ethanol production in Wisconsin generates $4.2 billion in economic activity, impacting 19,000 jobs, with $982 million in wages, and generates $306 million in taxes.
Not only is ethanol made from this corn, Ethanol plants produce about 2.8 gallons of ethanol from a 56-pound bushel of corn. From all the corn used to make ethanol in Wisconsin, the ethanol plants also make 1.5 million tons of high protein livestock feed (distillers grain).
Ethanol is a Cleaner Fuel
Fuel contains harmful aromatics, with 20% to 30% of each gallon of gasoline you put in your car comprised of harmful aromatics. Aromatics like benzen, toluene and xylene are added to increase the octane in fuel. These aromatics are what create invisible, odorless ultrafine particles (UFPs) that have been linked to a number of ailments, from lung cancer to cardiovascular disease, according to the Urban Air Initiative. Learn more by watching this video.
We can minimize the amount produced by our vehicles. One way is to use higher blends of ethanol in our tanks. Testing shows that when the ethanol level in gasoline contains 15% to 30% ethanol, particulate emissions can be significantly reduced.
Use Ethanol in Wisconsin
Ethanol is now found in all ‘regular’ gasoline in Wisconsin because of its clean air benefit. Wisconsin has more than 140 E85 refueling stations for Flex Fuel Vehicle owners to fill up with fuel containing up to 85 percent ethanol. Because of growing consumer demand, some stations are adding blender pumps so drivers can use ethanol-blended fuel with more than 10 percent ethanol.
Ethanol and Clean Air
- The American Lung Association supports ethanol, specifically E85, as a “Clean Air Choice” in fuel because of the benefits of reducing harmful emissions. American Lung Association of Upper Midwest
- Using ethanol helps reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by up to 29%. University of Nebraska – Lincoln
- Ethanol reduces greenhouse direct-effect greenhouse-gas emissions by 59 percent, compared to gasoline. University of Nebraska
- Switching from E10 gasoline to E15 would reduce the amount of cancer-causing carcinogens emitted, resulting in an estimated 6.6 percent reduction in cancer risk. Life Cycle Associates
Ethanol and the Environment
- Unlike gasoline, ethanol rapidly biodegrades in surface water, groundwater and soil, and is the safest component in gasoline today.
- Ethanol has a positive net energy balance – that is, ethanol is less energy intensive to produce than gasoline. Ethanol and its co-products contain 77 percent more energy than is required to produce them. Contrast this to gasoline, which results in 0.81 units of energy for every one unit of energy used in its production. U.S. Department of Agriculture
- Ethanol production requires less water than gasoline; by a 3 to 1 margin. General Accounting Office
- Corn-based ethanol has achieved a lower climate change impact than gasoline, with emission reductions of up to 48 percent. Argonne National Laboratory
Food & Fuel
- Ethanol production has little or no effect on food prices. Transportation is one of the biggest costs on food prices, so ethanol and other bio fuels have helped reduce the cost of fuel. World Bank
- The type of corn used for ethanol is called “No. 2 Yellow” corn, and should not be mistaken for sweet corn, or the canned or frozen corn you buy in the store.
- About three percent of field corn goes directly into food products as corn meal, corn oil, corn syrup or corn starch.
- If ethanol use is expanded, and because corn and food made with corn account for only a small fraction of total U.S. spending on food, that total spending would increase by about one-quarter of one percent. Congressional Budget Office
Ethanol and Engine Performance
- NASCAR uses E15, a blend of 15 percent ethanol. They’ve raced more than 7 million miles on E15 with no engine problems from ethanol. If it’s good for NASCAR, it’s good for your car.
- Ethanol adds oxygen to gasoline – improving combustion and reducing toxic exhaust emissions.
- The U.S Environmental Protection Agency has approved E15 for 2001 and newer cars and trucks. E15 is one of the most tested fuel blends in history. Environmental Protection Agency
- The U.S. Energy Department’s rigorous, thorough and peer-reviewed study of the impact of E15 fuel on current, conventional vehicle catalyst systems did not find unusual wear on critical engine components. U.S. Department of Energy
- Bobby Likis, Car Clinic Network talk show host refutes the link between ethanol and engine performance problems. Forty-five years as a mechanic, he never had one engine in 200,000 that he worked on had problems related to ethanol. Watch this video.
- With 14.3 billion gallons of domestic ethanol production, the U.S required 512 million fewer barrels of imported oil in 2013. Renewable Fuels Association
- The U.S imports approximately 28% of its petroleum needs today. This number is down significantly since the rise of the ethanol industry. Renewable Fuels Association