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What is Ethanol Oil?

Daniel Liden
By Daniel Liden
Updated May 17, 2024
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Ethanol oil is a fuel that utilizes varying percentages of ethanol biofuel in oil to decrease the cost and environmental impact of normal fossil-fuels. As the price of foreign oil increases, scientists seek new sources of fuel to ease the burden and to lower prices. Ethanol may be that solution. Some countries, such as Brazil, have already greatly reduced their dependence on foreign oil through the use of ethanol oil.

Ethanol fuel is a biofuel, meaning that it can be produced from recently-living organic matter. Fossil fuel, on the other hand, can only be produced from the decomposed matter left by organisms that died millions of years ago. The supply of fossil fuel is limited and dwindling fast as countless drivers take to the roads each day, burning fuel. Biofuel can be produced from crops that are grown on a yearly basis, and can be mixed with oil in varying quantities to make cleaner fuels that decrease the need for fossil fuels.

The production of ethanol oil begins in high-sugar or high-starch crops, such as sugarcane or corn. Enzymes break down starch into sugar. Yeast fermentation produces alcohol from the sugar. This is distilled and dried. Once ready, it is added to oil or oil is added to it, depending on the makeup of the fuel mixture.

The use of ethanol oil has many benefits. It burns much cleaner than fossil fuels, and is likely to contribute less to problems such as global warming and habitat destruction. It is also cheaper to produce; its production is very similar to that of most alcoholic beverages. Many nations are beginning to use ethanol oil in an attempt to reduce their dependence on foreign oil. In Brazil, at least, where sugarcane crops are being used to produce ethanol, it is working.

As with most good things, ethanol oil has a host of features that make some people suspicious of its worth. While it is cleaner, ethanol fuel is less efficient than normal fossil fuels, as it burns more quickly. Therefore, a greater volume of fuel is necessary for the same output of energy. The distillation process takes a great amount of heat, and that heat is often provided by burning fossil fuels. This leads many to question if using ethanol is really that much cleaner.

Oil companies have been mixing ethanol with fossil fuels for years, as it increases the octane of the fuel. Normally, however, only about 10% of the fuel mix is ethanol. In an attempt to make a more complete transfer to ethanol oil, some places have begun selling E85, which is 85% ethanol. As more efficient, cleaner ways of producing ethanol and other biofuels are being developed, perhaps more will follow the trend and work toward a cheaper, cleaner tomorrow.

AboutMechanics 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.

Discussion Comments

By Amphibious54 — On Oct 15, 2010

Biomass and cellulosic ethanol production may be one answer to alleviate some of the damage caused by the competition of biofuels and food. These methods use crops that have a higher per acre yield, use less fertilizer, and can be grown on marginal lands, or are derived from plant waste.

Every human on the planet depends on access to energy and food for survival. Both of these issues are very important, and population growth has led to a crisis in the making. Using these two sources of biomass for fuel would make much more sense than creating a problem to solve another.

By GenevaMech — On Oct 15, 2010

@ Chicada- The impact of biofuels on food production is another problem that has arisen from this possible solution to increased energy demand. The use of corn of fuel is largely responsible for the large increase in food prices in 2007 and 2008. In the year to a year and a half that the global food crisis was happening, the price of grains rose about 10 to 12 percent. This rise in grain prices was largely attributable to the increase in demand for ethanol and other biofuels.

Many may think so what, but when you think about the extent of grain and oils in the manufacture of food, this caused food prices to go up across the board. Meats became more expensive because feed was more expensive. Even the cost of processed foods increased in price because of the cost of staples like soy, corn, and wheat. This may not matter much to those who can afford it, but for the billion or so people who live on less than a dollar a day, a 12%+ increase in grains meant starvation for some.

By chicada — On Oct 15, 2010

There are other disadvantages to ethanol production not discussed in this article. These disadvantages highlight the serious flaws in the ethanol and biofuel industry.

One flaw that comes to mind is the fact that ethanol leads to massive deforestation. A large portion of the eastern Amazon and the majority of the deforestation in Borneo's virgin forests are due to the growing popularity of ethanol. These forests have some of the highest bodiversity densities on the planet, and they are also responsible for cleaning a large portion of the carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. The burning of biofuels form deforested lands is counterproductive.

Ethanol has the potential to be beneficial, but the institutional capacity to deal with the problems created by increased ethanol production is no there.

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