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Biofuels explained Ethanol

The United States produces most of the fuel ethanol that it consumes

U.S. fuel ethanol production capacity and annual production have increased overtime. Since 2008 the increases are largely because of the fuel blending requirements of the Renewable Fuel Standard program. Total production capacity increased from 13.6 billion gallons per year in 2011 to 17.5 billion gallons per year in 2021. Total annual fuel ethanol production generally increased each year from 1981 through 2021.

In 2021, U.S. fuel ethanol production (as measured by renewable fuels and oxygenate plant net production of fuel ethanol) equaled about 15 billion gallons (0.4 billion barrels). Fuel ethanol production fell in 2020 mainly because lower overall gasoline demand reduced ethanol blending into motor gasoline. However, continuing a trend since 2010, in 2021, total annual fuel ethanol production exceeded annual fuel ethanol consumption, as measured by the amount that is blended into motor gasoline, by about 1.1 billion gallons. The United States exported about 1.3 billion gallons (29.8 million barrels) of fuel ethanol to at least 87 countries in 2021.

Even though the United States has been an annual net exporter of fuel ethanol since 2010, it imports some fuel ethanol, and most from Brazil. All fuel ethanol imports from 2018 through 2021 have been to the U.S West Coast.

U.S. fuel ethanol production is concentrated in the U.S. Midwest

As of January 1, 2021, there were fuel ethanol production facilities in 23 states with a total production capacity of about 17.5 billion gallons per year. Most—93%—U.S. fuel ethanol production capacity is located in the Midwest region (Petroleum Administration for Defense District or PADD 2), where production capacity totaled about 16.3 billion gallons per year. Three states combined had 50% of total production capacity: Iowa with 27%, followed by Nebraska with 13%, and Illinois with 10%. Those three states combined also accounted for 50% of total annual U.S. fuel ethanol production in 2019, with Iowa accounting for 28%, Nebraska for 13%, and Illinois for 9%.1 The Midwest region as a whole accounted for 95% of total U.S. fuel ethanol production in 2021.

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Because ethanol cannot be transported in petroleum product pipelines, it is transported from ethanol production facilities by rail, tanker and barge, and truck to finished motor gasoline blending terminals and then by truck to gasoline fueling stations.

1 U.S. Energy Information Administration, State Energy Data System (SEDS), Primary Energy Production Estimates in Physical Units, United States, as of April 4, 2022.

Last updated: April 12, 2022 with most recent data available at the time of update.