Ethanol has become a major player in alternative fuels over the last few years. Our nation uses approximately 384 million gallons of gasoline each day. That amounts to more than 140 billion gallons each year. The United States imports approximately 60 percent of the oil it uses. A significant portion of that oil is imported from countries that are not stable and are in volatile parts of the world. Many citizens feel that from a national security standpoint, it is in the nation’s best interests to reduce our reliance on foreign sources of energy, such as oil, and move to renewable, domestically produced fuels.
Ethanol is one of these renewable fuels that can be producedwithin our nation’s borders. The feedstocks, conversion and distribution all take place within the country. With recent federal legislation, national goals are to replace 30 percent of our petroleum consumption with biofuels, such as ethanol. Tennessee currently has, installed or under development, about 480 million gallons per year of ethanol production capacity. It is projected that between corn-based ethanol and cellulosic ethanol, Tennessee has the potential to produce at least 1 billion gallons of ethanol each year, replacing 30 percent of its gasoline consumption.
Ethanol is an ethyl alcohol that can be used as a liquid fuel. It is made up of oxygen, hydrogen and carbon (CH3CH2OH ). Ethanol is made by fermenting sugars or converted starch into alcohol. The chemical makeup of ethanol is the same, whether it is made from grains or plant materials. It is primarily produced from corn grain, but can also be made from the sugar in cellulosic biomass. Cellulosic biomass is simply plant material from which sugar is extracted. Ethanol can be burned, much like gasoline, to produce energy that powers vehicles and machinery.
"SP700-B-Ethanol: A Primer," The University of Tennessee Agricultural Extension Service, R12-4110-070-020-08 SP700A-5M-5/08 08-0230, http://trace.tennessee.edu/utk_agexbiof/4