1. News & Issues
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

What is Ethanol?

By

Question: What is Ethanol?
Answer: Ethanol (which is also called ethyl alcohol or grain alcohol, and abbreviated as EtOH) is an alcohol-based alternative fuel that is blended with gasoline to produce a fuel with a higher octane rating and fewer harmful emissions than unblended gasoline.

Ethanol is made from grains or other plants
Ethanol is produced by fermenting and distilling grains such as corn, barley and wheat. Another form of ethanol, called bioethanol, can be made from many types of trees and grasses, although the process is more difficult.

The chemical formula for ethanol is CH3CH2OH. Essentially, ethanol is ethane with a hydrogen molecule replaced by a hydroxyl radical, -OH, which is bonded to a carbon atom.

Blending ethanol with gasoline
Blends of at least 85 percent ethanol are considered alternative fuels under the Energy Policy Act of 1992. E85, a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline, is used in flexible fuel vehicles, which are offered by most major auto manufacturers. Flexible fuel vehcles can run on gasoline, E85, or any combination of the two.

Blends with more ethanol, such as E95, are also premium alternative fuels. Blends with lower concentrations of ethanol, such as E10 (10 percent ethanol and 90 percent gasoline), are sometimes used to increase octane and improve emissions quality, but are not considered alternative fuels.

Ethanol is good for the economy
Ethanol production supports farmers and creates domestic jobs. And because ethanol is produced domestically, from domestically grown crops, it reduces U.S. dependence on foreign oil and increases the nation’s energy independence.

Ethanol: Frequently Asked Questions

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.