What is ethanol?

More than 95% of U.S. gas contains ethanol

Published On: Feb 11 2014 08:21:18 AM EST   Updated On: Feb 11 2014 08:29:10 AM EST

Given Tuesday's train derailment and ethanol spill in downtown Jacksonville, we looked into what exactly ethanol is and how it's made available as a vehicle fuel.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, ethanol is a renewable fuel made from plant materials. Combined, they are known as "biomass." More than 95% of all gasoline in the United States has low levels of ethanol in it. This oxygenates the fuel and reduces air pollution.

Ethanol is also available in high-level blends, known as E85. This type of fuel can be used in flexible fuel vehicles, which can run on high-level ethanol blends, gasoline or any other combination of these. There are at least three steps to making ethanol available for use as fuel in a vehicle:

Researchers think ethanol could substantially offset our nation's petroleum use. Studies have estimated that ethanol and other biofuels could replace 30% or more of U.S. gasoline demand by 2030.