Ethanol, also known as ethyl alcohol or grain alcohol, is believed to be the "fuel of the future". This is according to renowned automobile inventors Henry Ford and Charles F. Kettering -- the car geniuses who believed that ethanol will eventually replace gasoline in running vehicles.
Ethanol can be produced using various food stocks such as sugarcane, corn, sugar beets, sweet potatoes, and cassava. As early as pre-history, ethanol has been used to produce alcoholic beverages but people are using it now as a motor fuel or fuel additive. Although there are still doubts about ethanol's capability to outplace gasoline, the demand for this commodity is rapidly increasing and among the reasons for the growing need of ethanol is the production of E85.
E85 is an alternative transportation fuel composed of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline. Automobiles known as flexible fuel vehicles (FFVs), which are made to run on ethyl alcohol, gasoline or combination of both, are gradually creating a market in top ethanol-user countries such as Brazil, the United States, and Sweden. FFVs are the only vehicles that can use E85, that is why more people are owning this kind of automobile because of the benefits that E85 gives. E85 is proven to reduce air pollution because it lowers the gasoline's emission levels of hydrocarbon, nitrogen oxide, and carbon monoxide. It can also help in lessening the volume of imported oil and most importantly, E85 is sold at a cheaper rate than the regular gasoline. Since the demand for E85 is booming, one may wonder where can people avail of this fuel.
In the world market, Brazil ranks first in the production of ethanol. It is also among the few countries that run cars using E100 (100% ethanol) and E85. About 40% of all the vehicles in this country use E100 while the rest use other ethanol mixtures. As the top ethanol exporter, Brazil has numerous E85 fueling stations making this alternative fuel available in every part of the country.
In the United States, ethanol is acquired through fermenting corn. It ranks second in the world production of ethanol and it was able to produce 3.5 billion gallons of ethanol in 2004. Although it still imports ethanol, its efforts to produce it locally enables it to supply E85 and reduces its consumption of expensive petroleum.
Since the U.S. can produce its own ethanol, it can be expected that it can also produce E85. There are over 900,000 refueling stations that offer E85 in the nation. Minnesota and Illinois are the states that have the most number of E85 fueling stations. These E85 stations are the major sources of E85 of the Americans but there are people who can produce this alternative transportation fuel on their own. However few, people who make home-made E85 mix regular gasoline with the fermented food stocks in their backyard. Although the production of ethanol is quite meticulous and the amount produced is not much, E85 can be availed even if there is no convenient E85 station.
Ethanol is becoming the next substance to run vehicles. As early as 1970's, a famous fuel blend called Gasohol, was used in the American Midwest. Gasohol was a mixture of 10% ethyl alcohol and 90% gasoline, and today, E85 is inching its way to operate vehicles.
In Minnesota alone, over 300 E85 fuel stations serve thousands of FFVs owners. About one-third of America's refueling pumps can be spotted on this state. Due to the use of E85, the state was able to cut its oil consumption, which helps the government to save more funds.
It can also be observed that the number of E85 refueling stations are increasing, mostly in the Midwest America. The rise of E85 stations in Midwest can be explained by its huge corn production. Furthermore, E85 stations are easier to put up because the improvements needed to allow a gas station to vend E85 are much smaller than those needed for other alternative fuels such as M85.
Although E85 is continuously gaining popularity and its usage is becoming very rampant, not all countries can avail the said fuel. Countries like Brazil and India, who produce their own ethanol, have all the means to produce E85. Since they do not import ethanol, they can blend it with gasoline in any mixture that their vehicles need. Compared to the Philippines and Nigeria, where ethanol is being imported, E85 is not available. From this example, it can be concluded that E85 is not available worldwide. The convenience of ethanol in a country greatly affects the availability and use of E85. For those countries who cannot produce ethanol, they do not avail of this fuel because the cost of producing it will be greater than the regular gasoline. Since gasoline and ethanol are imported, the cost of E85 will be much higher.
The inability to produce E85 does not only happen in countries who depend on ethanol importation. In the U.S., although it produces ethanol and has more E85 refueling stations than other countries, not all people get to avail it. Those states like Maine and New Hampshire, who cannot produce local ethanol do not have a single E85 fueling station. The lack of E85 stations in these states hinder the U.S. government's efforts to promote the nationwide use of E85.
Ethanol has been around for the longest time and it has been used for numerous purposes. Apart from being a solvent, specimen preserver, and a thermometer component, it is also used as an ingredient in alcoholic beverages and as a fuel. As a fuel, a specific amount of ethanol is mixed with gasoline, just like E85, and it helps save money to run vehicles. The increase in the cost of gasoline often reaches up to 40% and E85 is being eyed as a solution to this problem. It is expected that ethanol will soon replace oil in the world market and using E85 is a milestone in achieving this goal. E85 advocates aspire more that countries will commit to the usage of the "green fuel".