We’ve officially stumbled upon the season of holiday travel, folks! Despite the temporary joys of lowered gasoline costs, our environment must pay the true price each winter with the enormous rise of carbon emissions due to increased traffic. While you’re tossing gifts and over-stuffed suitcases into your vehicle of choice, try and take a moment to wonder- be you crammed in a plane, train, or automobile -the impact of fossil fuels on our planet. Be an eco-conscious driver, and consider flex fuel and ethanol-friendly vehicles — keeping our air cleaner for generations to come!
Ethanol: The Alternative Fuel
Although ethanol is a type of fuel that originated in the late 1880s, its composition still manages to remain a mystery to many Americans. Despite its short-lived prosperity in the early 20th century (used by automakers such as Henry Ford, whose first automobile ran on ethanol), the popularity of manufacturing ethanol-based vehicle tanks began to wane as gasoline- a very cheap foreign petroleum -suddenly became readily available in the 40s.
Throughout the rest of the 20th century gasoline dominated the market, to both the American wallet and the environment’s expense. A known air pollutant and unsustainable resource, gasoline is one of the main contributors to global air pollution due to its connection to vehicle emissions. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists:
In 2013, transportation contributed more than half of the carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides, and almost a quarter of the hydrocarbons emitted into our air.
Ethanol, unlike its dirty counterpart, is a clean burning fuel composed of biomass: plant matter such as trees, grasses, agricultural residue, algae, and other biological material. Ethanol is typically blended with gasoline (10% ethanol, 90% gasoline) to make E10, a mix that oxygenates the fuel and reduces the impact of the vehicle’s emissions; even more potent blends of ethanol exist, however, from E15 to E85.
The Benefits of Ethanol
Gasoline may be the cheapest choice at the pump, but ethanol is priceless thanks to its long-term benefits!
- It’s renewable and sustainable, composed of material easily grown from the earth
- It’s made in the USA, primarily with corn grains, reducing our dependency on foreign oils
- It’s high octane, i.e. a vehicle can run smoother with an ethanol blended fuel
- It’s fuel speed, power, and acceleration is comparable to gasoline when used
Present drawbacks of ethanol in America include the corrosive nature of the fuel on vehicle tanks, and a lack of refueling stations offering ethanol –two factors that can be resolved with social and political encouragement. Although change seems slow-moving here, the U.S., Brazil, and the European Union are all leaders in ethanol technology, promoting programs that aim to convert to renewable biofuels by 2020.
Does It Work on Any Vehicle?
Although ethanol is the most popular biofuel in the world, used by over 64 countries, the availability of ethanol and ethanol-based products in the U.S. still remains limited. While most vehicles can run on an E10 or E15 blend, Flex Fuel Vehicles (FFVs) are the only vehicles manufactured to handle any mixture of fuel in the tank, from pure gasoline to optimum blends like E85.
An estimated 3 million vehicles on American roads can operate on E85, but because our sustainable ethanol crop is corn-based, most of the ethanol refueling stations are located in the midwest (where the crop is grown and readily available).
Do You Drive a Flex Fuel Vehicle?
Can’t tell whether or not your vehicle if Flex Fuel? No worries! Visit the National FFV Awareness Campaign’s website here, where they’ll give you detailed steps and links for your researching pleasure!
Be safe on the roads, and happy travels this holiday season!