Ethanol and Energy Security

The production and use of ethanol greatly increases our nation’s ability to be more energy secure. Leaders from every branch of military have recognized that the nation’s addiction to foreign oil presents a very real threat and endangers our national security, economy and environment.

Reducing our nation’s addiction to foreign oil is important not only because of the risk that foreign governments will reduce supplies and raise prices, but also because of the dangers associated with sending money for oil to hostile regions of the world.

Here are a few ethanol and energy security facts:

  • As ethanol use has grown, dependence on imported petroleum has declined from 60% to 28%. In fact, since 2011, American-made ethanol has contributed to more volume to the U.S. fuel supply than the gasoline refined from oil imports from Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and other OPEC nations.
  • According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), the United States’ net foreign oil dependence peaked at more than 60% in 2005, the same year the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) was enacted. Since 2005, the increased use of American-made, renewable fuels has been a driving force in reducing the nation’s net foreign petroleum dependence. In 2014, without 14.3 billion gallons of domestic ethanol, net import dependence would have stood at 35%, instead of 28%.

Graph courtesy of the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA).

  • Secretary of the U.S. Navy Ray Mabus stated, “When we did an examination of the vulnerabilities of the Navy and Marine Corps, fuel rose to the top of the list pretty fast.  We simply buy too much fossil fuel from actual and potentially volatile places.  We would never allow some of these countries we buy fuel from to build our ships, our aircraft, our ground vehicles – but because we depend on them for fuel, we give them a say in whether our ships sail, our aircraft fly, our ground vehicles operate.”
  • The U.S. spends between $27 and $138 billion a year on military operations securing the safe delivery of oil from the Persian Gulf, the equivalent of an extra $1.17 per gallon of gasoline.
  • On his presidential campaign in 2008, Barack Obama stated, “The price of a barrel of oil is now one of the most dangerous weapons in the world… The nearly $700 million a day we send to unstable or hostile nations also funds both sides of the war on terror, paying for everything from the madrassas that plant the seeds of terror in young minds to the bombs that go off in Baghdad and Kabul.”
  • U.S. ethanol growth has reduced oil imports from the Persian Gulf region by 25% since 2005, however an increase in oil prices has more than offset the decline in import volumes.
  • According to the Congressional Research Service, $46.6 billion in tax expenditures has been granted to fossil fuels 1977-2010, and  more than $130 billion in government subsidies have gone to the oil industry from 1968-2000, as detailed by the U.S. General Accounting Office.

For more information on ethanol and energy security, please visit Renewable Fuels Association’s energy security facts page by clicking here.

To view RFA’s brochure entitled, “Oil Dependence: A National Threat,” please click here.

Ethanol’s Energy Balance

While there is a great deal of misinformation on the energy balance of ethanol, credible sources, like the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), consistently point out that ethanol maintains a positive energy balance, and as farming and production facility efficiencies continue to improve, ethanol’s energy balance follows.

The Department of Energy states, “In terms of fossil energy, each gallon of ethanol produced from corn today delivers one-third or more energy than is used to produce it.”

The graph below shows how much fossil energy is required to provide 1 BTU of each fuel at the pump. The graph does not reflect energy derived from solar or other renewable sources used in the production of ethanol.

Chart courtesy of the U.S. Department of Energy

Chart courtesy of the U.S. Department of Energy

According to a 2008 study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), ethanol returns 2.3 BTUs for every 1 BTU of energy inputs. By comparison, conventional gasoline returns only 0.8 BTUs for every BTU of energy inputs.

To learn more form the Department of Energy on the energy balance of ethanol, please click here.

To view the entire USDA study on the energy balance of ethanol, please click here.