The United States has pledged to kick the oil habit
but, should Americans start fuelling their vehicles with E85? For most Americans, Ethanol is already included in most of the gasoline they purchase on a regular basis. Ethanol has replaced MTBE as an additive to gasoline to boost its octane or to meet clean fuel oxygen requirements (i.e., reformulated gasoline and winter oxygenate gasoline). It doesn't seem to matter if you are a fan of E85 or not, distribution and production of E85 is on the rise, and soon, E85 will be at a fuel station near you. Virtually all vehicles on the road today are ethanol capable that is to say that they can burn "gasohol" which is 10% ethanol and 90% gasoline.
Currently, only a small percentage of Vehicles are E85 capable.
New cars and trucks that are E85 capable, Flex
Fuel Vehicles (FFV) have recently been added to an ever-growing list of hybrid
cars available at your local automobile dealers. These 'yellow cars' are supposed to have 2 external identifiable markings to illustrate that they are E85 capable. Both of these identifiers are hidden behind the gas cap door; one marking is a label stating that the car can utilize E85, the second is a yellow gas cap. E85 vehicles are also known as hybrid since they can burn either straight gas, E10, E15, E85, or any combination of those fuels.
Ethanol Production not limited to
In the U.S., Ethanol and E85 is produced from corn but, can also be produced from corn stalks, switch grass and other biodegradable products. The Ethanol produced from switch grass and the like is known as cellulosic
ethanol. Switch grass, (panicum virgatum) grows well during the summer months, and does not require a lot of water. E85 can also be produced from sugar cane, the primary source for the fuel in Brazil. While sugar can is cheaper to grow, the tropical weather in Brazil is an ideal location, while the Midwestern US climate, like that of Africa, is more suited for growing (zea mays) corn. Zea Mays, (Maize, Corn) has a great ability to grow well in bright sunlight, with limited water which would seem to indicate a low cost for production. The cost in growing corn comes from pesticides, fertilizers, and the equipment required in maintaining, and harvesting the mature product. Currently, this machinery is powered by power plants which burn the same petroleum product that is becoming more and more expensive.
Consumption of fossil fuels in the US is enormous. One estimate shows that nearly 300 million Americans burn 150 billion gallons of gasoline each year, with a mere 3% of it being Ethanol. Brazilians are estimated to burn about 10 billion gallons of gasoline each year, with 40% of consumption being Ethanol. In an effort to close that gap, American
Ethanol production has increased some ten fold and will soon pass Brazilian production as the world's largest ethanol producer. E85 may not be the best answer to fuel consumption, production requires petroleum based fuels, and the amount of soil needed to grow crops might exceed available land mass.