Everyone with a car, lawn mower, motorcycle or other gasoline-powered machinery is feeling the pressure at the pump. Gas prices have remained high for several weeks (or months) now and they don’t seem to be coming down anytime soon. In fact, long-lasting relief may be a ways off. As we look for ways to keep costs down, renewable sources of fuel like ethanol are central to planning for the future. Ethanol fuels can knock a significant chunk off the cost to fill up. But how exactly does it help lower prices overall?

Ethanol: What It Is and Why It’s Important

In common terms, ethanol is a renewable biofuel manufactured from plant-based materials like corn. But did you know that the base compound, ethyl alcohol, is the same that’s found in alcoholic beverages?. There are key differences in how fuel ethanol and ethyl alcohol are processed. Ethanol is processed through milling and is blended into gasoline.

Corn is the most commonly used feedstock, but sugar cane and sorghum also suffice. Ethanol can even be produced from recycled paper and wood products. The vast majority of ethanol produced in the United States is made from field corn, a tougher and more versatile hybrid compared to the edible sweet corn.

E10, E15, E85 – What’s the Difference?

In order to make ethanol usable in cars, some extra steps are required. This is because the unique composition of ethanol restricts how much can be blended into gasoline. To help maximize the number of cars that are compatible with ethanol-blended gasoline, it’s sold in specific proportions. You might notice at the pump some of these blends available:

E10: With 10% ethanol and 90% gasoline, E-10 blends are the most common form of ethanol found across the country. Its minimal blend and wide availability makes it compatible and warrantied with most gas-powered vehicles on the road today.

E15: 15% ethanol and 85% gasoline might not seem like a big difference compared to E-10 blends, but E-15 use is more restrictive. Based on studies by EPA, E-15 is only sold for cars with a model year of 2001 or newer.

E85: The highest level of blend sold at a retail location is E85, with E-85 consisting of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline. This blend is only usable in what are known as “flex-fuel vehicles or FFVs.” Any ethanol blend can be utilized in an FFV, with the engine adjusting itself with a sensor.

3 Ways Ethanol Can Relieve Gas Prices

Corn-based ethanol from farms in Nebraska and other top-producing states can be a great tool in our goal to reduce costs at the pump. Ethanol can help lower prices in a number of ways, such as:

  1. Reducing international dependence: The more fuel we can produce domestically, the less reliant we are on international markets. Prices often fluctuate since multiple economies are involved, so a stable domestic supply can dissuade speculation, keeping prices from spiking.
  2. Increasing total supply of fuel: When there’s more ethanol available to blend into gasoline, the total supply of gasoline is more available to more consumers. The larger the supply, the lower the cost.
  3. Lowering import and tariff expenses: As fuel is transported around the world, the logistical and political costs added onto the total can be significant. Enormous quantities of ethanol can be produced by farms in states like Nebraska, leaving these extra expenses out of the equation.

Ethanol is a renewable and biodegradable source of relief that can benefit everyone on and off the road. Helping find the best ways to integrate biofuels continues to be an important part of how farmers support our communities, state and nation and the environment.

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