Ethanol-blended gasoline powers cars and trucks hundreds of thousands of miles across the United States each and every year. In fact, it has powered vehicles through more than 2 trillion miles in the past 25 years. It is proven to decrease air pollution, enhance engine performance and boost local, regional and national economies. Every major automaker approves and warrantees its use. Even so, there's a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding out there. The truth is that ethanol is economical, efficient, and earth-friendly.
Myth: Ethanol makes your engine run hotter.
Fact: There's a reason many high-powered racing engines run on pure alcohol. It combusts at a lower temperature, keeping the engine cooler. Ethanol, a form of alcohol, in your fuel does the same for your engine.
Myth: Ethanol is bad for fuel injectors.
Fact: Olefins in gasoline cause deposits that can foul injectors. By comparison, ethanol burns 100 percent and leaves no residue, so it cannot contribute to the formation of deposits. Fact is, ethanol actually keeps fuel injectors cleaner and improves performance. What's more, ethanol does not increase corrosion, and it will not harm seals or valves.
Myth: Ethanol plugs fuel lines.
Fact: Ethanol actually keeps your fuel system cleaner than regular unleaded gasoline. In dirty fuel systems, ethanol loosens contaminants and residues and they can get caught in your fuel filter. In older cars, especially those manufactured before 1975, replacing the filter will solve the problem. And if you continue to use ethanol-blended gasoline, your filter will remain cleaner for improved engine performance.
Myth: Ethanol isn't safe for older vehicles.
Fact: Many older cars were designed to run on leaded gasoline, with the lead providing necessary octane for performance. However, even dramatic changes in gasoline formulation over the past few years have not affected older engine performance. Ethanol, a natural, renewable additive, raises octane levels by three points and works well in older engines.
Myth: Ethanol harms small engines, like those on lawn mowers, snowmobiles, personal watercraft and recreational vehicles.
Fact: Small engine manufacturers have made certain that their engines perform with gasoline that contains oxygenates such as ethanol. Ethanol-blended fuel can be used safely in anything that runs on unleaded gasoline.
Myth: Ethanol actually increases air pollution.
Fact: There can be no increase in emission from ethanol-blended fuels; it's the law. In fact, ethanol reduces carbon monoxide emissions by as much as 25 percent and displaces components of gasoline that produce toxic emissions that cause cancer and other diseases.
Myth: Ethanol contributes to global warming.
Fact: The energy balance for ethanol is positive, 1.35 to 1, so the greenhouse gas benefits of ethanol are also positive. Using ethanol produces 32 percent fewer emissions of greenhouse gases than gasoline for the same distance traveled.
Myth: It takes more energy to produce ethanol than it contributes.
Fact: Corn plants efficiently collect and store energy, so for every 100 BTUs of energy used to produce ethanol, 135 BTUs of ethanol are produced. In addition, ethanol facilities are extremely energy efficient.
Myth: Ethanol production wastes corn that could be used for food.
Fact: In 2001, U.S. farmers produced 9.5 billion bushels of corn and only 600 million bushels are currently used in ethanol production. There's no shortage of corn, and the ethanol market could expand significantly without negatively impacting its availability. Besides, ethanol production uses field corn, most of which is fed to livestock, not humans. Only the starch portion of the corn kernel is used to produce ethanol. The vitamins, minerals, proteins and fiber are converted to other products such as sweeteners, corn oil and high-value livestock feed, which helps livestock producers add to the overall food supply.
Myth: Ethanol does not benefit farmers.
Fact: Demand for grain from ethanol production increases net farm income more than $1.2 billion a year, and ethanol production adds $4.5 billion to U.S. farm income annually. Studies have shown that corn prices in markets near ethanol plants will increase between 5 cents and 8 cents per bushel. In North Dakota, ethanol production increases the market price for corn by 25 cents per bushel. In addition, ethanol production accounts for a portion of the overall corn supply and helps improve corn prices nationwide.
Myth: Ethanol only benefits farmers.
Fact: The increase in net farm income results in a boost in the agricultural sector that cuts farm program costs and taxpayer outlays. Beyond that, ethanol production has been responsible for more than 40,000 jobs, or more than $1.3 billion in household income. It also directly and indirectly adds more than $6 billion to the American economy each year by boosting surrounding economies.
Sources: American Coalition of Ethanol and the Renewable Fuels Association