Ethanol has a proven track record, internationally, as an automobile fuel. The fuel ethanol industry is well developed in the United States. Sales of ethanol-gasoline blends represent about 8 - 9 % of the total gasoline sales in the United States last year -- greater than the entire Canadian gasoline market. Americans have driven over 3 trillion kilometres on ethanol-blended fuels since 1979.
The use of ethanol-blended gasoline has been actively encouraged by governments and some environmentalists in the United states for a number of reasons including:
Support for fuel ethanol is a key component in the current U.S. Clean Air Act because of its beneficial effect on air quality. Oxygenated fuels, such as ethanol blends, are mandated in certain regions to reduce carbon monoxide emissions and/or ozone.
Brazil is the worlds leader in the use of ethanol as an automobile fuel. More than 11 billion litres of ethanol for fuel are produced each year. About 15% of the vehicles with spark ignition engines (the type normally fueled by gasoline) run on neat ethanol, and the rest use a blend of 20% ethanol in gasoline. Ethanol was introduced to reduce Brazils dependence on expensive foreign oil, and provides an additional market for domestic sugar producers. Beneficial effects on air quality have been an added bonus.
In Canada, the ethanol industry is developing momentum, now that ethanols environmental, economic, energy, rural development, and renewable attributes are being more widely recognized. Although the industry is still in its infancy, with only a few small-scale plants producing ethanol, consumer demand has prompted several gasoline retailing chains to feature ethanol blends, with demand for ethanol exceeding our domestic production. Ethanol-blended gasoline is now available at over 700 gas bars across Canada from Quebec to the Pacific, including the Yukon Territory. In many regions, ethanol blends are available for bulk delivery for farm and fleet use. The federal government and several provinces offer tax incentives, based on environmental, economic development and/or energy diversity benefits, for the production and/or marketing of ethanol-blended gasoline to encourage development of an alternative fuel industry. Also, Environment Canada has designated ethanol-blended gasoline, which meets their specifications, as an Environmental Choice™ product on the basis of reduced toxic emissions, reduced use of non-renewable resources, and reduced carbon dioxide emissions. However, a firm and broad-based (i.e., multiple departments/ministries) commitment to procurement and incentives for ethanol in the near-term is essential to ensure the successful establishment of this fledgling renewable energy industry.
Warranty coverage is provided for the use of properly blended ethanol-gasoline fuel for all automobiles sold in North America. General Motors Corporation has gone further, endorsing the use of oxygenated fuels, beginning with the 1990 models, and Chrysler Corporation has endorsed their use as of 1991. Manufacturers of two-cycle engines (lawn mowers, chainsaws, weed trimmers, marine engines, etc.) also provide full warranty coverage, although some specify minor carburetor adjustments to optimize performance. Owners manuals for specific brands should be consulted.