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What Countries are the Main Ethanol Producers?

By Harriette Halepis
Updated May 17, 2024
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The two top ethanol producers in the world are the United States and Brazil, though Canada, China, Thailand, Columbia, India, and Australia are all beginning to catch up. Simply put, ethanol fuel is a type of renewable fuel that is often used as an alternative to gasoline.

The vast majority of bio-ethanol fuel is derived from natural sources such as sugar cane and corn. Other plants that can be used to create ethanol include sugar beet, switchgrass, barley, hemp, potatoes, sweet potatoes, sunflower, fruit, and many others. Essentially, any plant that goes through the process of photosynthesis can be turned into some form of ethanol. In addition, a small amount of ethanol is derived from petroleum.

Ethanol fuel goes through the same process that human-grade alcohol does. In order to produce ethanol, plants must first be fermented. During the fermentation stage, the sugars and starches within a plant are drawn out. Following fermentation, distillation is used to remove all water from the plant; in order to create fuel, almost all traces of water must be eliminated. Lastly, each plant must be properly dehydrated in order to remove any last traces of water. Only at this point can plants be properly converted into ethanol fuel.

Countries that are not considered top ethanol producers are generally not capable of growing plants that can be turned into ethanol fuel. Most of the crops that can be converted into ethanol tend to grow in warmer climates. Thus, the main ethanol producers are those countries that have ideal plant producing weather.

Ethanol fuel is mostly used to power automobiles, though it can also be used as fuel for farm equipment and airplanes. The one major drawback of using ethanol fuel is that a car running on ethanol may not start properly during cold winter months. Often, it is not possible for enough vapor pressure to occur in order to ignite an engine when cold weather is present. Aside from this drawback, ethanol fuel may be a good alternative to gasoline.

Out of all the ethanol producers mentioned above, Brazil has one of the largest bio-ethanol programs. Since Brazilian farmers produce a large amount of sugar cane, these plants are ideal for ethanol gasoline conversion. In fact, Brazil is thought to be one of the only countries in the world that has a sustainable bio-fuel environment.

Unlike most other countries around the world, Brazil no longer needs to rely upon gasoline importation. Instead, being one of the world's top ethanol producers, Brazil has found a way to use local crops as a source of fuel. Aside from Brazil, the United States is also reaching for sustainable bio-fuel goals, though this country also remains one of the top users of petroleum in the world.

About Mechanics is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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