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Biofuels explained Use and supply of 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 888,000 barrels per day (b/d) or 37.30 million gallons per day (gal/d) in 2011 to 1.13 million b/d (47.63 million gal/d) in 2020. Total annual fuel ethanol production generally increased each year from 1981 through 2019, reaching 1.03 million b/d (43.23 million gal/d) in 2019.

In 2020, U.S. fuel ethanol production (as measured by renewable fuels and oxygenate plant net production of fuel ethanol) equaled 906,000 barrels per day (b/d) (38.05 million gal/d). This was 12% lower than the level in 2019 mainly because lower overall gasoline demand reduced ethanol blending into motor gasoline. However, continuing a trend since 2010, total annual fuel ethanol production exceeded annual fuel ethanol consumption, as measured by the amount that is blended into motor gasoline, by 104,000 b/d (4.37 million gal/d). The United States exported 87,000 b/d (3.65 million gal/d) to at least 50 countries in 2020.

Even though the United States has been an annual net exporter of fuel ethanol since 2010, it imports some fuel ethanol, and mostly from Brazil. All fuel ethanol imports from 2017 through 2020 have been to the U.S West Coast.

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

As of January 1, 2020, there were fuel ethanol production facilities in 25 states with a total production capacity of 1.13 million b/d (47.63 million gal/d. Most—92%—U.S. fuel ethanol production capacity is located in the Midwest region (Petroleum Administration for Defense District or PADD, 2), where production capacity totaled 1.04 million b/d (43.81 million gal/d). Iowa alone had 26% of the total production capacity followed by Nebraska with 13%, and Illinois with 10%.

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The three states with the largest production capacity—Iowa, Nebraska, and Illinois—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 93% of total U.S. fuel ethanol production in 2019 and for 95% in 2020.

1 U.S. Energy Information Administration, State Energy Data System (SEDS), Primary Energy Production Estimates in Physical Units, United States, as of July 1, 2021.

Last updated: July 2, 2021