Biofuel Energy Corp. Biofuel Energy home page

FAQ’s

The Basics

What is Ethanol?

Ethanol is a high octane, clean burning, renewable fuel. It’s made up of ethyl alcohol distilled to nearly 200-proof. Ethanol has higher octane and creates fewer emissions than gasoline and is utilized in gasoline as an emissions reducer.

Back to top

Why is Ethanol Good for America?

Ethanol is a domestically produced, clean burning, inexpensive alternative fuel.

It’s produced across the nation using domestically grown crops and brings us one step closer to energy independence by reducing our demand for foreign oil. . It is also created with commonly available materials that are relatively inexpensive keeping production costs lower than the market value.

Ethanol also burns much cleaner than gasoline. Due to its chemical composition, ethanol powered vehicles produce less carbon monoxide and dioxide emissions. In fact, Ethanol is presently used in gasoline as an additive to reduce pollution caused by greenhouse gases.

Additionally, ethanol is relatively inexpensive. Because its so compatible with gasoline, Ethanol does not require new infrastructure to distribute it across the country. It is also created with commonly available materials that are cheaply available so production costs can stay lower than the market value of ethanol.

Back to top

What is ethanol doing to food prices?

Many studies show that ethanol does virtually nothing to food prices.

Corn ethanol has been the target of misinformation and marketing campaigns that blame rising food prices on ethanol production. These ads are designed to destroy public opinion, and have no base in reality.

According to the Consumer Federation of America (CFA), only 4 percent of the change in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) is directly related to corn prices. The other 94 percent of the rising cost of food is due to marketing, advertising and, ironically, transportation costs.

Also, Ethanol is not made out of sweet corn, the type commonly eaten by humans. Instead, it is made out of field corn, the type that goes into animal food. And, the corn used in ethanol production is sold back to ranchers as a low cost, high nutrition feedstock suitable for the same use. Ethanol production only removes the starch from the kernel of corn leaving most of the nutritional value intact. This starch-less corn, now known as DDGS, is sold to livestock facilities as a low cost, high nutrition feedstock suitable for the same uses that feed corn has been used in the past.

Back to top

What is the ethanol subsidy?

The current ethanol subsidy is a complex topic. There are two major pieces of legislature that govern the federal subsidy of ethanol, and neither fit the definition of a subsidy. Section 301 of the Job Creation Act of 2004 and The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 together mandate production levels and create incentives to put ethanol into the market.

The limited Small Ethanol Producer Tax Credit is an actual subsidy but is limited to $1.5 million per producer.

Section 301 of the Job Creation Act establishes a Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit (VEETC) that is commonly known as a “Blenders’ Credit.” This Credit creates an incentive for oil companies to blend ethanol with regular unleaded gasoline. The VEETC establishes a 51-cent tax credit for every gallon of pure ethanol blended into gasoline. For example, E-10, a blend of gasoline containing 10% ethanol and 90% gasoline, would qualify for a 5.1- cent per gallon tax credit. With this tax credit, ethanol companies have more buyers than would otherwise be available.

The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, also called the Renewable Fuels Standard, mandates the minimum production of renewable fuels per year. This Act says that 9 billion gallons of conventional BioFuels must be produced in 2008. By the year 2022, the Renewable Fuels Standard mandates that there must be a total of 36 billion gallons of renewable fuels produced in the United States.

Back to top

Is ethanol economically viable?

Yes. With the price of oil constantly in flux, Ethanol provides a consistent source of fuel at a production cost that is substantially lower than the price of producing the same amount of gasoline.

Back to top

Why is ethanol better than other alternative fuels?

It’s all about the infrastructure. Unlike other alternative fuels, Ethanol can be used in today’s vehicles, pumped out of existing pumps, and mixed with gasoline to expand our fuel supply. At present, there aren’t any alternatives that can be used nationally without wide-scale modification to vehicles, fuel stations, and fuel transport systems.

Back to top

How long has ethanol been used as a fuel?

A long time — Henry Ford designed the first Model-T to run off of 100% ethanol.
Ethanol became less popular as gasoline became more accessible, but in the 1970’s, Ethanol was returned to the market place as a fuel additive, taking the place of the harmful additive MTBE.

Now, nearly 70% of all American fuel contains concentrations of ethanol from 10 to 85 percent.

Back to top

What does ethanol’s future hold?

It’s difficult to predict, but it looks promising. The most important development is cellulosic ethanol, which utilizes non-food crops to produce ethanol.
Cellulose is the main component of plant cell walls and is the most common organic compound on earth. Cellulosic Ethanol utilizes the whole plant for fermentation, not just the starch rich parts currently used in ethanol production.
Cellulosic ethanol makes use of non-food crops and yields greater fuel per acre-of-crop gain than corn ethanol. Cellulosic ethanol also shows great promise for increasing the distribution of ethanol production facilities. Due to the current production feedstock, most ethanol plants are located inside of the grain belt around cornfields. Cellulosic ethanol would make it economically viable to create ethanol plants throughout the country, increasing jobs and local revenue across the nation.

Back to top

Ethanol Fuel

What is E-85?

E -85 is an alternative fuel that contains 15% gasoline and 85% Ethanol.

Back to top

What will E-85 do to my car?

If your car is a Flex Fuel Vehicle, nothing. All Flex Fuel Vehicles are manufactured to be completely compatible with E-85.

If you put E-85 in a non Flex Fuel Vehicle, there will be no immediate problems, however, if you continue to run E-85, it may cause long-term damage to the fuel system, as E-85 is an oxygenated fuel, and the oxygen will corrode the bare metal and rubber found in many older fuel systems.

Back to top

What is E-10?

E-10 is a commonly used fuel that contains 10% ethanol and 90% gasoline. E-10 extends current fuel supplies, increases the octane of gasoline, and cuts harmful emissions from vehicles by almost 30%.

Back to top

What will E-10 do to my car?

All vehicles are "ethanol-capable" and can use a blend of up to 10% ethanol. 

Back to top

I have heard about E-20 and E-30. What are these?

E -20 is an alternative fuel that contains 80% gasoline and 20% Ethanol. Likewise, E-30 is a blend that contains 70% gasoline and 30% ethanol. Research is underway that will show the effects of these fuels on gas mileage.

Back to top

What will E-20 do to my gas mileage?

While many research projects are still undergoing, recent studies show that E-20 can increase your fuel economy due to the more complete combustion that it creates.

Back to top 

Ethanol Production

How is ethanol made?

Ethanol production is simple, clean, and economical. The process begins with a source material that is fermented and converted to ethanol fuel. In the United States, the most common source material is corn, but other options are available. Brazil uses sugar cane and scientists all over the world are researching cellulosic ethanol — which would utilize non-food plant matter like poplar, switchgrass, or wheatgrass to produce ethanol.

There are seven main steps in ethanol production:

  • The source material must be milled to a meal to allow easier fermentation.

  • The meal is mixed with water to form a semi-liquid called mash.

  • Mash is combined with enzymes to convert the starch to sugar to be fermented.

  • Mash is piped into huge tanks where fermentation occurs. Typical fermentation takes about 40-50 hours.

  • The fermented mash, now called beer, is pumped into a distillation process that separates the ethanol from everything left over. This ethanol is about 190 proof.

  • The ethanol is then sent through a dehydration process that finally purifies the ethanol to nearly 100% purity, or 200 proof.

  • The pure ethanol is mixed with 5% denaturant, like gasoline. This ensures that the finished ethanol is non-drinkable and allows the ethanol to be sold as a fuel, not as an alcoholic beverage.

Back to top

Does ethanol production harm the environment?

No. Ethanol production is a clean, environmentally friendly process. Most plants have highly advanced systems that clean the liquid waste and gasses produced by the plant.

Ethanol is the cleanest, most environmentally friendly fuel alternative available today. When used as an additive, Ethanol reduces vehicle emissions by almost 20%. Unlike gasoline, Ethanol does not contaminate groundwater and can be diluted with water, allowing for easy, environmentally friendly clean up.

Back to top

What is the energy balance of ethanol production?

Some people today believe that ethanol has a negative energy balance, or takes more energy to produce than it produces when combusted. This is simply not true and has been scientifically disproved again and again.  Scientific study has proven ethanol's energy balance to be positive. 

The latest USDA figures show that ethanol made from the drymill process provides at least 77% more energy as a fuel than the process it takes to make it.  It takes about 35,000 BTUs (British Thermal Units) of energy to create a gallon of ethanol, and that gallon of ethanol contains at least 77,000 BTUs of energy.  The net energy balance of ethanol is simply a non-issue.

Back to top

What are Distillers Grains?

Distillers grains are a co-product of drymill ethanol production.  Ethanol production only uses the starch portion of the corn. All the remaining nutrients — protein, fat, minerals, and vitamins — are concentrated into distillers grain, a valuable feed for livestock. A bushel of corn that weighs 56 pounds will produce 2.8 gallons of ethanol and 17 pounds of distillers grain.

Distillers grains can be used wet or dry. Dry distillers grains, abbreviated as DDG, are frequently used by many ranchers and landowners due to its highly transportable nature and long shelf life. Wet Distillers Grains, also called WDG, are used when a consistent, local, market is available. WDG’s do not have as long of a shelf life as DGS, but they do not require drying, making it cheaper for both the consumer and the producer. Distillers grains are high quality feed for cattle, swine, and poultry as they are both nutritious and inexpensive.

Back to top

What is cellulosic ethanol?

Cellulosic ethanol is an advanced method of producing ethanol using cellulose. Cellulose is the main component of plant cell walls and is the most common organic compound on earth. Cellulosic Ethanol allows for the use of the whole plant for fermentation, not just the starch rich parts currently used in ethanol. Cellulosic ethanol makes use of non-food crops, as well as yields a much greater fuel/acre-of-crop gain as compared to corn ethanol. Cellulosic ethanol also shows great promise for increasing the distribution of ethanol plants. Due to the current production feedstock, most ethanol plants are located inside of the grain belt around substantial quantities of corn. Cellulosic ethanol would make it economically viable to create ethanol plants all throughout the country, increasing jobs and local revenue throughout the nation.

Back to top

LATEST NEWS

News Release: BioFuel Energy Reports Third Quarter 2013 Results.
Nov 11, 2013

News Release: BioFuel Energy Reports Second Quarter 2013 Results.
Aug 13, 2013

More news...

Did you know?

E10 ethanol-enriched fuel, a blend of 10% ethanol and 90% gasoline, is warranted for use in any vehicle manufactured after 1980. Ethanol is available at thousands of fuel stations across the country. Simply look for the 'e' on the pump, or ask the fuel retailer for more details.

©2008 BioFuel Energy Corp.• 1600 Broadway, Suite 1740, Denver CO 80202 • 303.640.6500 • (fax) 303.592.8117 • Email