Nebraska drivers save $17 million using ethanol-blended fuel

By Nebraska Ethanol Board | December 15, 2016

In 2016, Nebraska drivers will save approximately $17 million by using ethanol-blended gasoline. The savings is based on lower prices for ethanol compared to wholesale gasoline and the state’s projected spark-ignition fuel consumption of 900 million gallons.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, ethanol is blended into virtually all U.S. gasoline. The most common ethanol blend sold nationwide is E10, a blend of 90 percent gasoline and 10 percent ethanol. Between August 2015 and August 2016, the cost of wholesale ethanol averaged 18 cents per gallon less than the minimum octane gasoline allowed to be sold in most of the U.S.

According to the Department of Energy, this year’s gasoline consumption by U.S. motorists will exceed 140 billion gallons and 97 percent of this fuel will contain ethanol. U.S. gasoline refiners continue to supply lower-octane gasoline which is typically enhanced with high octane ethanol to meet fuel standards. The octane-boosting capability and cleaner-burning attributes of ethanol make it an indispensable part of the U.S. motor fuel supply.

The significant role of ethanol in the nation’s fuel supply is likely to expand in 2017 to meet the requirements of the national renewable fuel standard (RFS), noted Nebraska Ethanol Board Administrator Todd Sneller.

“Higher octane fuel reduces ‘engine knocking’ and provides better vehicle performance,” he said. “Adding ethanol to boost octane reduces the toxicity of gasoline. It’s a win-win for consumers and the environment.”

Adding 10 percent ethanol to low octane gasoline increases the octane rating to levels recommended by auto manufacturers and required by federal regulations.  In most parts of the country regular gasoline enhanced with ethanol has an octane rating of 87 which is the minimum octane recommended by automakers.

According to EPA’s Urban Air Toxics report to Congress, U.S. refiners increasingly boost octane by adding refining by-products such as benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene and xylene. Several of these chemicals are known and suspected carcinogens, and they’re more expensive additives. According to a February 2016 study by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the price of petroleum-based additives range from 35 cents to a dollar per gallon more than ethanol.

“These products of oil refining, known as aromatics, can produce cancer-causing emissions which damage the human immune, respiratory, neurological, reproductive and developmental systems,” Sneller said. “Ethanol is much less expensive and cleaner-burning than these toxic petroleum-based chemicals.”

Nebraska is the nation’s second largest producer of ethanol with 25 plants producing a combined capacity approaching 2.5 billion gallons annually. The ethanol industry has a $5 billion annual economic impact in the state.

“Future growth in the ethanol industry is likely tied directly to automaker efforts to meet increasingly stringent U.S. fuel economy standards,” Sneller said. “New vehicles will have more efficient, higher compression engines that require even higher octane fuels. Ethanol will continue to play a role as a high-octane, low-carbon renewable choice in the U.S. and abroad.”