Ethanol Info

Ethyl alcohol (C2H5OH) is known as ‘ethanol’, or simply ‘alcohol’, and is a colourless liquid with a faint odour.  In Queensland, it is made from sugarcane molasses. It can also be made from wheat and other crop residues.

The story of ethanol

Australian motorists are worried about ethanol. Motorists are saying, “I understand the importance of ethanol for the environment, but I am not sure what it will do to my engine...”

There are no mysteries surrounding the use of ethanol as a fuel overseas. In Australia, the mystery is why isn’t it being used in fuel as a matter of every day life?

Damaging media statements have promoted negative views about ethanol, causing confusion and uncertainty in the community. So here is some helpful information:

  • Ethanol by itself burns with 30% less energy than petrol, BUT the extra oxygen it carries makes an ethanol-petrol blend deliver more energy to an engine than petrol alone. A CSIRO study has identified that E10 delivers approximately 97% of the power of standard Unleaded Petrol.
  • Ethanol effectively adds more oxygen to the fuel combustion process to produce a cleaner, faster burn.
  • Ethanol burns 100% to water and CO2 and leaves no residue or deposits.
  • Many high-powered engines use E10 Unleaded because it keeps the engines cooler.
  • 10% ethanol blend in cars is completely safe and has been approved for use in new cars by most manufacturers.
  • There is no difference in how an ethanol blended fuel interacts with your car. Ethanol will be more likely to clean up old deposits in your engine and improves the nation’s balance of trade and GDP.

Ethanol keeps fuel systems clean and eases cold weather starting

Why do we need it?

Air quality and health issues

The major factor now influencing the introduction of alternative fuels worldwide is a growing concern, and in some cases alarm, about air quality and future oil reserves.

An extensive American study attributes 1 in 5 lung cancer deaths to fuel emissions.

The June/July 2003 edition of The Road Ahead report: “The latest Air Emission Inventory Report has revealed that drivers are the major air polluters in Queensland’s south-east. Based on EPA and Brisbane City Council (BCC) monitoring, the report shows motor vehicles cause more than 60 percent of oxides of nitrogen and carbon monoxide in the region. BCC estimates travel could increase by 60 percent by 2011.”

“The Australian transport sector accounts for about 20% of Australia’s total greenhouse gas emissions, a figure which is expected to increase.” (Ecos April-June 2003)

In South East Queensland air quality is a growing concern and drivers are the major air polluters.

There is currently no legislation to address this concern. “Queensland’s 3,187,000 registered vehicles are estimated to have belched out a record 14.1 million tonnes of carbon monoxide in the past 12 months.” (Courier Mail 11 June 2003)

Asthma is a growing health concern in Australia. In 2001 in Australia, 37,000 men, women and children were admitted to hospital suffering symptoms of asthma. This is an extraordinary figure and does not include those suffering quietly in their own homes. It is known that certain particles emitted form petrol can trigger asthma.

What does the science say?

The science says that greenhouse gases, carbon monoxide and hydrocarbon emissions are poisoning the earth’s atmosphere. The science says that increasing average global temperatures, arising from an increase in greenhouse gases from industrial activity and population growth, contribute to the Greenhouse Effect.

The science also says that under current conditions, use of ethanol-blended fuels as E85 (85% ethanol and 15% gasoline) can reduce the net emissions of greenhouse gases by as much as 37.1%. Ethanol blended fuels such as E10 (10% ethanol and 90% gasoline) reduce greenhouse gases by up to 3.9%.

Where does it come from?

  • Ethanol is made from clean, green, raw materials
  • Fermentation ethyl alcohol is produced from three types of raw materials:
  • Sugar based feedstocks – mainly molasses, sugarcane juice, sugar beet, Jerusalem artichoke
  • Starchy products or cereals – mainly corn, wheat, maize, potatoes
  • Cellulose sources – mainly waste or biomass such as wood, rice straw, plant material left over from logging, or other plant waste.
  • There are no economically viable industries as yet, but research is continuing and these may become important sources of ethanol in the future.
  • These raw materials can be replenished each year by the sun, thus making ethanol a renewable energy source! 

Can you use e-10 in your vehicle? Ethanol is suitable for use in most post-1986 vehicles. If you are unsure about using ethanol, you may consult your vehicle handbook or check with your car manufacturer. More information is available from