Why Ethanol?

Why Ethanol?

Internal combustion engines cannot run on pure gasoline. Without something to boost the octane rating (a measure of the amount of compression a fuel can handle), engines either would have low power or would run badly, and not for long. There are many ways to boost octane. For a long time, we used lead - we still do in AvGas for piston airplane engines. It turned out not to be such a good idea to pollute the air with lead vapors. We also use compounds extracted from petroleum. But the resulting emissions are just about as bad as lead. Ethanol, on the other hand, works extremely well, costs a lot less and burns much more cleanly. It's a win all around.

What is Ethanol?

Ethanol is a biodegradable, high-octane alcohol derived from the sugars, starches and cellulosic matter found in plants. It has been used as a fuel or additive since the days of Henry Ford’s Model T. Virtually every gallon of gasoline consumed in the United States today contains fuel ethanol. However, ethanol also is the primary alcohol in alcoholic beverages. It’s used in thermometers and as an antiseptic in medical wipes and in hand sanitizers – among many other uses.

Ethanol Blends

Ethanol is blended with gasoline in various amounts for use in vehicles.

E10 10 percent ethanol, classified as “substantially similar” to gasoline by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and legal for use in any gasoline-powered vehicle. E10 is sold in every state. In fact, more than 95 percent of U.S. gasoline contains up to 10 percent ethanol to boost octane, meet air quality requirements or satisfy the Renewable Fuel Standard.
E15 Up to 15 percent ethanol. EPA-approved in 2011 for use in model year 2001 and newer conventional vehicles. E15 delivers higher octane at a lower price and results in lower evaporative emissions.
E20-E30 Higher percentage blends of ethanol offer the best and least expensive way to increase octane for higher performance engines. In addition, higher blends result in lower sulfur content. For example, E30 cuts the amount of sulfur in gasoline by two-thirds.
E85 E85 (also known as flex-fuel) is a high-level ethanol-gasoline blend containing 51 percent to 83 percent ethanol, depending on geography and season. It can be used in designated flexible fuel vehicles only. About one quarter of vehicles produced in 2015 will be flex-fuel capable.

Ethanol Delivers Performance

Ethanol at 15 percent blend is approved for use in all vehicles manufactured since 2001. NASCAR® drivers all use E15 because it gives them more horsepower and lower emissions. The Vanguard Squadron, an elite stunt plane team, uses ethanol, too. Flying just feet apart with split-second timing, they can’t afford stalls and vapor locks. The Catfish Bay Water-Ski Show in Sioux Falls, SD, – “The Greatest Show on H2O” – performs breathtaking stunts while being pulled by ethanol-powered boats. With as many as 30 water skiers in formation, power, control and consistency are essential.*

Ethanol Can Replace Toxic Gasoline Additives

In the 1980s, the U.S. acted to remove lead additives from gasoline amid overwhelming evidence of serious health consequences from lead-generated vehicle emissions. Unfortunately, that lead was replaced with petroleum-derived polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon compounds that carry their own set of serious health consequences. They are both carcinogenic and cause damaging gene mutations among other toxic effects. Both lead and the aromatics were added to gasoline to boost octane because engines won’t run on gasoline without some sort of octane enhancement. Fortunately, ethanol provides a much cleaner and cheaper octane boost. This factor alone makes a compelling case for ethanol-blended fuels.** Visit fixourfuel.com to learn more.

Ethanol Means Jobs – In the U.S.

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that between 10,000 and 20,000 U.S. jobs are created for every billion gallons of ethanol produced. A recent Louisiana State University study found that ethanol reduces gas prices 78 cents a gallon – a consumer savings of more than $100 billion annually. In 2013 alone, the ethanol industry created and supported nearly 400,000 new jobs across the country that cannot be exported or outsourced. In addition, ethanol production contributed more than $44 billion to the nation’s GDP and generated $4.5 billion in federal tax revenues. Ethanol production also plays a critical role in stimulating economic growth in America’s rural areas, including Kansas.*


  • $150 million capital construction investment
  • $70 million to the economy during construction
  • $230 million annual local economic base expansion
  • 45 direct jobs, 101 indirect area jobs
  • $3.2 million/year in tax revenues

Ethanol Means Jobs – In Kansas

Twelve Kansas ethanol plants (10 are members of Renew Kansas) produce nearly half a billion gallons a year. In 2009, ethanol production resulted in more than $2 million in real property taxes and nearly $100,000 in personal property taxes to the state. The 10 Renew Kansas plants employ more than 325 people, with an average salary of $49,000 and an average payroll of $2 million per plant.


The Kansas Department of Agriculture (KDA) recently completed and released a study on the economic impact of the production of ethanol and distillers grains in Kansas.

Please find a downloadable PDF of the summary report from that study which sets forth data points on both ethanol and distillers grains. According to the report, the ethanol/DDGS industry creates a total direct output of approximately $1.5 billion annually, and directly creates 744 Kansas jobs. In addition, our industry indirectly supports 4,333 jobs across the state, 0.23% of the entire workforce. The study additionally states that our industry, directly and indirectly, provides a total economic contribution of approximately $2.2 billion to the state economy, or roughly 1.47%.

We are thankful to our KDA working partners for taking the time to complete this study. This is valuable data that will help us convey the importance of our industry to our state and federal government leaders. Please let Renew Kansas staff know if you have any questions about the report, and we will forward those on to the department.


According to the Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory, ethanol reduces greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 34 percent in comparison to gasoline. Moreover, advanced biofuels have the potential to nearly eliminate greenhouse gas emissions. In 2013, the 13.2 billion gallons of ethanol blended into gasoline in the United States helped reduce greenhouse gas emissions from on-road vehicles by approximately 38 million metric tons, which is the equivalent of removing roughly 8 million automobiles from the road.

Ethanol Links/Resources

Growth Energy

Committed to the promise of agriculture and growing America’s economy through cleaner, greener energy. Growth Energy members recognize that America needs a new ethanol approach. Through smart policy reform and a proactive grassroots campaign, Growth Energy promotes reducing green house gas emissions, expanding the use of ethanol in gasoline, decreasing our dependence on foreign oil and creating American jobs at home.

American Coalition For Ethanol

The grassroots voice of the U.S. ethanol industry, ACE is a national non-profit organization of more than 700 members in 43 states, including ethanol producers, farmers, investors, commodity organizations, businesses supplying goods and services to the industry, rural electric cooperatives and others supportive of the increased production and use of ethanol across America.

Renewable Fuels Association

As the national trade association for the U.S. fuel ethanol industry, the Renewable Fuels Association has been the voice of the ethanol industry since 1981. The RFA serves as a vital link between the ethanol industry and the federal government, including Congress and the administration, to promote increased production and use of ethanol through supportive policies, regulations, and research and development initiatives.

Clean Cities

Clean Cities advances the nation’s economic, environmental and energy security by supporting local actions to reduce petroleum consumption in transportation. A national network of nearly 100 Clean Cities coalitions brings together stakeholders in the public and private sectors to deploy alternative and renewable fuels, idle-reduction measures, fuel economy improvements, and emerging transportation technologies.

Kansas Grains

Kansas Grains provides information and insight into the Kansas feedgrain industry, with ties to the Kansas Corn Commission, Kansas Corn Growers Association and the Kansas Grain Sorghum Producers Association.

E15 Retailer Handbook

Manager’s Guide to Safe Trucking During Agricultural Planting and Harvest Season

American Trucking Association

Energy Incentives in Kansas

Kansas Department of Commerce

Learn the real reasons behind increasing food prices.

40 Facts About Ethanol

Get answers to all of the ethanol myths you’ve heard.

Issue Brief: The Impact of Ethanol Production on Food, Feed and Fuel

A publication of Ethanol Across America   *Source: Growth Energy **Adapted from William C. Holmberg, Physicians for Social Responsibilty

Urban Air Initiative

Urban Air Initiative explains the health issues posed by gasoline and how ethanol blends are a healthier alternative.

Fuel Up With Ethanol

It's good for you, your car,
your state.

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Topeka, KS 66612
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