Ethanol Fuel in The United States

Ethanol Fuel In The United States

The United States became the world's largest producer of ethanol fuel in 2005. The U.S. produced 13.9 billion U.S. liquid gallons (52.6 billion liters) of ethanol fuel in 2011, an increase from 13.2 billion U.S. liquid gallons (49.2 billion liters) in 2010, and up from 1.63 billion gallons in 2000. Together with Brazil, the U.S. production accounted for 87.1 of global production in 2011. In the U.S, ethanol fuel is mainly used as an oxygenate in gasoline in the form of low-level blends up to 10 percent, and to an increasing extent, as E85 fuel for flex-fuel vehicles.

The ethanol market share in the U.S. gasoline supply grew by volume from just over 1 percent in 2000 to more than 3 percent in 2006 to 10 percent in 2011. Domestic production capacity increased fifteen times after 1990, from 900 million US gallons to 1.63 billion US gal in 2000, to 13.5 billion US gallons in 2010. The Renewable Fuels Association reported 209 ethanol distilleries in operation located in 29 states in 2011, and 140 under construction or expansion as of December 2011, that upon completion, would bring U.S. total installed capacity to 15.0 billion US gallons. Most expansion projects are aimed to update the refinary's technology to improve ethanol production, energy efficiency, and the quality of the livestock feed they produce.

By 2011 most cars on U.S. roads could run on blends of up to 10% ethanol(E10), and manufacturers had begun producing vehicles designed for much higher percentages. Flexible-fuel cars, trucks, and minivans use gasoline/ethanol blends ranging from pure gasoline up to 85% ethanol (E85). By December 2011 there were nearly 10 million E85-capable vehicles on U.S roads. Regular use of E85 is low due to lack of fueling infrastructure, but is common in the Midwest. In January 2011 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) granted a waiver to allow up to 15% of ethanol blended with gasoline (E15) to be sold only for cars and light pickup trucks with a model year of 2001 or later. The EPA waiver authorizes, but does not require stations to offer E15. Like the limitations suffered by sales of E85, commercialization of E15 is constrained by the lack of infrastructure as most fuel stations do not have enough pumps to offer the new E15 blend, few existing pumps are certified to dispense E15, and no dedicated tanks are readily available to store E15.

Ethanol production was expected to continue to grow over the next several years, since the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 required 36 billion US gallons of renewable fuel use by 2022. The target for ethanol production from cellulosic feedstocks was 16 billion US gallons a year. The corn ethanol target was 15 billion US gallons by 2015. Ethanol industries provided jobs in agriculture, construction, operations and maintenance, mostly in rural communities.

In early 2009 the industry experienced financial stress due to the effects of the economic crisis of 2008. Motorists drove less, gasoline prices dropped sharply, capacity rose and less financing was available.

Historically most U.S. ethanol has came from corn and the required electricity for many distilleries came mainly from coal. Debate ensued about ethanol's sustainability. The primary issues related to the large amount of arable land required for crops and ethanol production's impact on grain supply, indirect land use change (ILUC) effects, as well as issues regarding its energy balance and carbon intensity considering its full life cycle. Recent developments with cellulosic ethanol production and commercialization may allay some of these concerns.

Read more about Ethanol Fuel In The United States:  History, Recent Trends, Energy Security, Tariffs and Tax Credits, Feedstocks, Comparison With Brazilian Ethanol

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