American Ethanol the Fuel of the…Past?
Ethanol’s First Rise and Fall
Around the world the amount of ethanol production has increased significantly over the past decade, especially in the United States where the gasoline supply in the U.S. went from 1% ethanol in 2000 to 10% ethanol in 2010. Ethanol’s most widespread use is in fuel and ethanol fuel’s most widespread use is in gasoline. At least 10% of gasoline mixtures in the U.S. contain ethanol with the U.S. moving toward having 15% blends with the EPA’s approval of E15 blended gasoline in 2010. It would seem as if we were moving towards the future by switching towards the use of ethanol, ironically as it turns out we are moving closer to the past.
In 1908 Henry Ford began producing the Model T, the first affordable automobile in the United States. Henry Ford didn’t fuel his mass produced car with oil based gasoline, he fueled it with corn based ethanol. For the next 10 years ethanol was the primary source of fuel for automobiles in the United States, Ford’s Model T could run off of oil based gasoline, but Ford personally endorsed the use of ethanol as fuel for his car.
Around the same time Ford’s Model T was taking off the movement to make alcohol illegal was rapidly gaining support. Major prohibition supporters WCTU and Anti-Saloon League’s memberships were peaking and many states were now banning alcohol individually. The Anti-Saloon League reportedly received over $500,000 from Standard Oil’s John D. Rockefeller to help spearhead this movement, which they did. Prohibition was passed in 1919 and went into law in early 1920.
Prohibition not only made it illegal for people to purchase alcoholic beverages but it made it illegal to purchase any kind of alcohol, which ultimately included ethanol. During the prohibition years 1920-1933 ethanol as a fuel for cars was replaced by fuel made from oil. By the time prohibition was finally repealed oil based fuel had replaced ethanol based fuel, setting us up for the fuel economy we have today.
Source on Rockefeller donations: http://www.nytimes.com/books/98/05/17/specials/rockefeller-gifts.html