The American government encourages the use of ethanol as a a possible solution to the nation's oil problem. Ethanol has proved to be an effective replacement to fossil fuel and oil imports. In one of his speeches, President Bush mentioned how the United States is very much dependent on foreign oil. These oil imports from different oil-producing countries in the world, cost the government millions of dollars. In his speech, the President once again stressed the potential of ethanol fuel as an answer to the country's grave oil problem. Therefore, the production of ethanol and ethanol fuel deserves support and proper investment from the government and the American nation.
The increase on the use of E85 -- a kind of alcohol fuel that is a mixture of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline -- as an alternative fuel could lessen the country's reliance on imported oil. E85, in fact, is rapidly gaining popularity in the country. In lieu with this development, the Energy Information Administration reported more than six million registered E85 compatible lightweight vehicles, most commonly known as flex fuel vehicles or FFVs, in the country. Some of these vehicles are owned by private individuals, and some are used for government and business purposes. Presently, an estimate of 200 E85 refueling stations are available nationwide.
The ethanol industry produces pure ethanol fuel or a blend of ethanol and gasoline in the form of E85 or E10. Billions of gallons of ethanol are being produced each year making it one of the fastest rising industry in the country for the past five years. In 2003 alone, 2.81 billion gallons of ethanol were produced. The next year recorded over a billion increase in production with the total yield of 3.4 billion gallons. The consumer demand, power plant development, and the prohibition of MTBE or methyl tertiary butyl ether all contributed to the progress of the industry.
At present, a total of 108 biorefineries, as listed by the Renewable Fuels Association or RFA, are providing the country with billions of gallons of ethanol each year. Since ethanol in the country are produced from corn, most of these plants are located in the Midwest region where corn farms are abundant. Among the states, the Corn Belt area has the most number of ethanol plants. The Corn Belt area is comprised by the states of Missouri, Wisconsin, Illinois, Nebraska, Minnesota, North Dakota, Iowa, South Dakota, Kansas, and Michigan. On the other hand, even non-major corn producers like California, New York, and Tennessee have their own plants as well. Most of these plants are also owned by corn farmers.
Ethanol plants or production facilities have started to materialized all over the country. Nevertheless, more than half of all plants are to be found in the Midwest. Among the few ethanol plants in the country that blend ethanol with gasoline to produce E85 are the following: Exol, Abengoa Bioenergy Corporation, Chippewa Valley Ethanol Company, Alchem Limited LLLC, VeraSun Energy Corporation, and Utica Energy LLC.
Abengoa Bioenergy Corporation is a company based in St.Louis, Missouri, and considered the second largest ethanol producer not only in the U.S, but in the world. It is the owner of several facilities around the country and Europe that produces and markets biodiesel and bioethanol. The company's growth plan include the improvement of profitable industrial technologies, increase in production, development of more markets, and building on sophisticated biomass-to-biofuels transformation technologies. To boot, the Abengoa Bioenergy R&D, Inc. (ABRD) focuses on research and development to further developed the production of bioethanol-based merchandises such as fuel cells, E-diesel, and E85. The company is strongly dedicated to provide first-rate products, incomparable services, and support for the development of biodiesel and bioethanol for transportation purposes.
The Chippewa Valley Ethanol Company (CVEC) situated in Benson, Minnesota. It started grinding bushels of corn in April 1996 just days after the plant was constructed. In 1997, CVEC was able to produce 17 million gallons of ethanol during its 12-month period for settling accounts. Today, the company produces a total of 45 million gallons of ethanol every year. Just a decade after CVEC first began its operation, the company already showed efficiency in operation and innovation in method development, as well as advanced marketing strategies. Currently, CVEC is one of the trusted names that produces fuel ethanol, industrial alcohol, distiller's dried grains (ddg), and the alternative fuel recognized by the country's Energy Department, E85.
Ace Ethanol LLC, on the other hand, is located in Wisconsin. The two local owners of the company aimed to built the first ethanol plant in the state. Its production began in June of 2002, and from then on, Ace Ethanol became the first and largest developed ethanol plant in Wisconsin. In addition, the plant has gone from grinding 8 million bushels of corn to 15 million bushels to produce 120 thousand gallons of ethanol every day. Aside from ethanol as their major product, E85 is also blended at Ace Ethanol. Other by-products of ethanol include DDGS or the dry distiller's grain with solubles, WDGS or the wet distiller's grain with solubles, liquid carbon dioxide (CO2), and dry ice. As part of their production improvement, the company developed the premises last May 2006 for an additional storage that can house another one million bushels of corn, and an additional corn dryer. Then by September of the same year, the company has installed the last new dryer and new corn bin. All these to make sure that the company's production would be even better than before.
For those living in North Dakota, Alchem Limited or LLLP is a known producer of ethanol and E85. The plant is located in Grafton, and yields more than 10 million gallons of ethanol yearly. Alchem began its operation in 1983 and is considered as one of the oldest plant in the U.S. The company's primary product is ethanol fuel. They also blend ethanol with gasoline to produce E85.
If North Dakota has Alchem, South Dakota has the VeraSun Energy. The company was built to contribute in providing the state with a better future through the production of renewable energy. The founders of VeraSun have clearly seen the effect of fossil fuel in the environment and in the economy. Their conviction that renewable energy like ethanol fuel is the most feasible resolution triggered them to ventured in ethanol production. Nowadays, VeraSun Energy is acknowledged by RFA as the nation's second largest producer of ethanol. Integrity, teamwork, leadership, responsibility, passion to succeed, and commitment to safety are the values that VeraSun Energy Company is living up to uphold and enhanced their reputation as a leader in the industry.
Ethanol, biodiesel, and E85 are VeraSun's major products. For the company, E85 production is as important as ethanol and biodiesel production for it is a popular alternative fuel. Besides, E85 is an approved vehicle fuel by companies such as Daimler-Chrysler and Ford Motor who preferred E85 to be used in their vehicles because of its valuable effect in the environment. As a proof that the company is true to their word of a better future through renewable fuel, VeraSun launched their very own brand of E85, the VE85. Retailers of VE85 are to be found in Iowa, Indianapolis, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, and of course, South Dakota.
In Wisconsin, another familiar plant name is Utica Energy. It started its operation in April 2003 and came to be the 73rd biggest ethanol plant in the country. The plant standing in Utica was constructed in 2002 and was completed after ten months. At present, Utica Energy is a 52 million gallon ethanol-producing company. Its plant can store up to 3.5 million corn bushels, can grind 2300 bushels in an hour, and can produce 150,000 gallons of ethanol in a day. Utica products include Utica Gold Distiller, Utica Energy CO2, Utica Ethanol, and E85. Utica blends their own E85, thus giving it the name Renew E85. In some cases where a flex fuel vehicle needs more gasoline because of the cold temperature, Utica has already done the process of modifying the content of E85 for the convenience of the consumers. Presently, there are four sites in Wisconsin where consumers can buy their Renew E85: Berlin, Oshkosh, Waupun, and Green Bay. As part of the company's future development, it will soon manage the E85 fuel stations to market the fuel straight to the consumers. In the meantime, the company is expanding the plant with the addition of five fermentation tanks, and another distillation service. In addition, the construction of an extended ethanol stowage and a train system -- so that Utica can transport its products anywhere in mainland United States -- have just been completed.
Last but not the least is Exol. It is the 13th plant put up by Broin Companies. It is located in Albert Lea, Minnesota, and produces up to 40 million gallons of ethanol per year. They process roughly 16 million corn bushels every year. They get corn from the local farmers, thus giving more income for the local farm industry at the same time producing clean fuel.
Though RFA have in their list over a hundred ethanol plants in the country as of December 2006, only a few blends E85. Most of the plants only produce ethanol which they sell to different petroleum companies who do the blending.
In addition to the benefits of E85 in the environment, and its promise of being the next key fuel for vehicles, the huge contribution of the industry that produces E85 in particular and ethanol in general must not be neglected. These contributions are very much apparent in the country's work force, as well as in the field of agriculture and energy, which all boils down to the nation's economy. Because of the unparalleled value of E85, more companies and investors are picturing the bright future in E85 production. Also, nowadays, more and more companies with ethanol plants are realizing the importance of producing their own E85.
As more of these people continue to invest their time, money, effort, and knowledge to the industry, an added $3.5 billion in the income tax revenue will be possible in the next couple of years. Because of the growth in the industry, 40,000 jobs were created. As a result, there was an increased of $1.3 billion household income yearly, and an estimated $12.6 billion more for the next five years. To sum it up, a total of $6 million are added to the economy every year.
In agriculture, the $0.14 value per bushel of corn unloaded was created because of the increased in the demand for the crop. The demand also enhances net farm income with over $12 billion each year.
Furthermore, the production of ethanol, specifically E85, decreases America's need for imported oil. This need and importation of oil causes the country's economy to drain. In reality, more than half of United States' energy consumption uses the imported oil. But the continuous production of ethanol, and the continuous use of E85 can lower the gasoline demand, which means a decreased of up to 98,000 barrel of oil each day. In this way, America's yearly trade deficit can have a cut of up to $1.1 billion.
Many have put up their own plants to cater the increasing demand for ethanol. Yet, only a few have offered their time and effort to produce E85. Blending of E85 is most of the time left in the hands of petroleum companies. These petroleum companies will then sell their finished products to different retailers across the country. However, dedication of those few companies in creating their own brand of E85, and selling the product directly to the costumers must always be seen as an effective step towards enriching the use of ethanol. At the same time, an effective step to increase the number of E85 suppliers in the country. In this way, those who are driving flex fuel vehicles will not have a hard time searching for a fueling station. More importantly, the nation will enjoy the benefits of an improving economy and a cleaner environment.