Ethanol has surged in popularity during recent years with production nearly tripling over the past decade, according to the Renewable Fuels Association. This growth in ethanol production and usage has numerous benefits for all Americans, but corn farmers have been the most directly impacted by this trend. Ethanol does not only benefit growers though. It also has benefits for the environment, the national economy, energy security and transportation, and is made from a natural product that can be repurposed after the production process. Ethanol has turned out to be a truly significant power play for agriculture.
Ethanol is good for the environment in several ways. Greenhouse gas emissions from corn ethanol are about one-third lower than from gasoline, even when including possible land use changes. During 2015 alone, the use of ethanol in gasoline reduced greenhouse gas emissions by more than 40 million metric tons. This reduction is the equivalent of taking nearly nine million cars off the road for the entire year, says the RFA.
Production of ethanol has also become much more efficient in recent years, as well. This efficiency limits the environmental impacts of producing ethanol. Electricity and natural gas usage at ethanol plants declined by about 40 percent during the past 20 years, while usage of water has declined by about 50 percent over the same period according to RFA figures.
Ethanol is good for the national economy and for the economies of corn-producing states. The global ethanol market has now grown to 30 billion gallons, says Ethanol Producer Magazine. The United States is a net exporter of ethanol, and has been since 2010. The U.S. currently produces about 15 billion gallons of ethanol annually, and uses about 14.2 billion gallons domestically. Ten Midwest states produce the majority of U.S. ethanol, says the RFA. These states are Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, and North Dakota.
Production of ethanol continues to increase despite 2015 presenting some challenges to the industry. Ethanol production increased by 3.7 percent in 2015 while ethanol exports increased by 3.4 percent, according to a RFA report on ethanol’s economic impact for last year.
The overall contribution that ethanol and biofuels make to the U.S. economy is substantial. Spending on ethanol production, research and development, and co-product output amounted to almost $44 billion in 2015, reported the RFA. The industry has also created many jobs as well. Ethanol production is directly responsible for more than 10,000 full-time jobs, while the overall ethanol industry and supporting industries have created more than 350,000 jobs. Approximately $24 billion in household income was derived from ethanol-related jobs in 2015, according to RFA information. Ethanol-related jobs also tend to be “good jobs,” offering high pay rates and have high levels of employee satisfaction, as well.
Ethanol helps to provide energy security for the USA. As recently as 2005, our petroleum import dependence was at 60 percent. Ten years later, in 2015, import dependence had fallen to 25 percent, however. Part of the reason of the decreased dependence on imported petroleum is ethanol, says the RFA. This ethanol boon – combined with the strides made in natural gas and other oil extraction techniques domestically – have helped to make the nation more energy independent.
Ethanol runs well in most modern automobile engines, helping to both improve engine performance and reduce carbon emissions.
Ethanol, with an octane rating of 113, provides better knock resistance at a lower cost than any other additive, making it also the safest and cleanest option available for octane improvement, says the RFA. The effectiveness of ethanol as a motor vehicle fuel is demonstrated each year at the Iowa Corn 300. This auto race, where drivers compete at speeds of more than 200 mph, is sponsored by the Iowa Corn Growers Association and the Iowa Corn Promotion Board to showcase the performance and power of ethanol.
Ethanol is made from a natural product that can be repurposed after the production process. Additional products that can be produced from the same corn used to make ethanol are known as co-products. This reusability is possible because only the starch in the grain is used to produce ethanol. The fiber, fat and protein can be repurposed as animal feed, allowing ethanol production to result in two products from the same crop.
About 30 percent of the corn that is used to produce ethanol can be returned to the feed market for use as co-products. These co-products include gluten meal, corn gluten feed, distillers’ oil, and distillers’ grain. One bushel of corn can be used to make about 2.8 gallons of ethanol, 16.5 pounds of livestock feed and 0.6 pounds of corn distillers’ oil, according to RFA data. This means that the ethanol industry was able to generate about 40 million metric tons of feed during 2015 as co-products alone.
At L &M Manufacturing, we provide innovative products that help corn growers and other crop farmers succeed in today’s agriculture market. We continue to develop proven products that meet the needs of agricultural producers, and we can help you optimize your operations. Call us today at 800-676-DRIP to learn more about any of our products or to place your order.