Apart from petroleum-derived gasoline and diesel, Ethanol is the main alcohol fuel used to run cars, other vehicles, and machinery.
- Since ancient times Ethanol fuel was used for lamp oil and cooking, along with plant and animal oils .
- Before the American Civil War many farmers in the USA had an alcohol still to turn crop waste into free lamp oil and stove fuel for the farmers' family use.
- In 1826, Samuel Morey uses alcohol in the first American internal combustion engine prototype.
- The Industrial Age caused farmers to move to city jobs, selling their farms and ethanol fuel stills.
- In 1859, Edwin Drake's first oil well is drilled in Pennsylvania.
- By 1860, thousands of distilleries made 90 million US gallons of alcohol or more per year for lighting, cooking, and industry. In 1860, German inventor Nikolaus Otto used ethyl alcohol as a fuel in an early internal combustion engine.
- In 1862 and 1864, a tax on alcohol was passed in the U.S. to pay for the Civil War, increasing the price of ethanol dramatically. Farmers couldn't sell it, so they used it themselves.
- In the 1890s, alcohol fueled engines were used in farm machinery, train locomotives, and cars in the U.S. and Europe, making countries more fuel independent. Ethanol was the first fuel used by American cars before gasoline.
- By 1896, horseless carriages (cars) were showing up on roads in Europe and the United States. Henry Ford's first car, the Quadracycle, ran on ethanol.
- In 1899, the German government began the office of alcohol sales. It artificially equalized the price of alcohol with the price of gasoline, through subsidies to alcohol makers and a tariff on imported oil.
- In 1902, the Paris alcohol fuel exposition exhibited alcohol powered cars, farm machinery, lamps, stoves, heaters, laundry irons, hair curlers, coffee roasters, and every conceivable household appliance and agricultural engine powered by alcohol.
- In 1906, the Free Alcohol bill is passed. The USA repeals the alcohol tax under Teddy Roosevelt, a bitter enemy of oil. At 14 cents per US gallon, corn ethanol was cheaper than gasoline at 22 cents per US gallon. Bills pass that exempt farm stills from government control.
- In 1907, the discovery of new oil fields in Texas causes the price of gasoline to drop to between 18 and 22 cents per US gallon in the USA. At the same time, alcohol fuel prices skyrocket to around 25 to 30 cents per US gallon.
- In 1908, the Ford Model T is introduced. It can run on ethanol or gasoline.
- In 1914, the Free Alcohol bill is amended again to decrease the regulatory burden and encourage alcohol fuel production in the U.S..
- In 1919, Prohibition police destroyed corn-alcohol stills, which some farmers used to produce low cost ethanol fuel.
- In the 1920s and 1930s, Koolmotor, Benzalcool, Moltaco, Lattybentyl, Natelite, Alcool and Agrol are some of the gasoline-ethanol blends of fuels once found in Britain, Italy, Hungary, Sweden, South Africa, Brazil and the USA (respectively).
- In 1921, leaded gas is discovered, solving the problem of engine knock associated with gasoline. It was believed that world oil supplies would run out or be too rare and expensive in 25 years. Ethyl alcohol was considered to be the fuel that would eventually replace petroleum. About 100 million gallons of industrial alcohol supply is available.
- In 1923, the price of alcohol from molasses was less than 20 cents per US gallon, while retail gasoline prices had reached an all-time high of 28 cents per gallon. Standard Oil experiments with a 10% alcohol, 90% gasoline blend for a few months to increase octane and stop engine knock. France subsidized alcohol fuel and required gasoline importers to buy alcohol, in amounts of at least 10% of their gasoline imports.
- By the mid-1920s, ethyl alcohol was blended with gasoline in every industrialized nation except the United States.
- In 1925, France, Germany, Brazil, and other countries have a "mandatory blending" law. This law requires gasoline retailers to blend in large volumes of alcohol with all gasoline sold.
- In the 1930s, the Dust bowl drought and Great Depression forced many more farmers to move to the cities looking for work, leaving their achohol fuel stills behind. Henry Ford, a farmer himself, supported ethanol's use over gas. Ford Motors originally built cars that could be changed slightly to run on gasoline, alcohol, or kerosene.
- In 1933, faced with the 25% unemployment of the Great Depression, the U.S. government considered tax advantages that would help ethanol production to increase employment among farmers. The "farm chemurgy" movement, supported by farmers, Republicans, and Henry Ford, searched for new products to grow on the farm (such as soybean plastic) and supported alcohol fuel.
- From 1933 to 1939, The American Petroleum Institute argued that such government help would hurt the oil industry, reduce state treasuries, and cause an unhealthy criminal 'bootlegger' atmosphere around fueling stations. They claimed alcohol fuel was in every way inferior to gasoline. The government did not pass the alcohol fuel incentives.
- Until the late 1930s, ethanol fuel was serious competitive threat to gasoline in Europe.
- In 1937, Agrol, an ethanol-gasoline blend, was sold at 2,000 service stations in the U.S. Agrol plant managers complained of sabotage and bitter infighting by the oil industry, and the cheaper price of gasoline. Alcohol was 25 cents per gallon, while gasoline was 17 to 19 cents per gallon.
- In 1939, Agrol production shuts down because of a lack of a viable market.
- By 1940, the U.S. Midwestern alcohol fuel movement had disintegrated.
- In 1942, more than 500 million gallons of alcohol is used for aviation fuel and synthetic "Buna-S" rubber for World War II. That year, US Senate committees began investigating the oil industry, particularly their control over other industries, such as the alcohol rubber industries.
- On October 14, 1947, legendary test pilot Chuck Yeager became the first man to fly faster than Mach 1, the speed of sound. He was piloting the Bell X-1, a bullet-shaped rocket plane that was the first in a series of secret high-speed research aircraft. The X-planes came to symbolize the danger and glamour of test flying at California's Edwards Air Force Base in the late 1940s and 50s. Originally known as the XS-1, the X-1 was powered by a Reaction Motors XLR11-RM3 rocket engine. Its four chambers each produced 1,500 pounds (6.7 kN) of thrust. At full power, the engine burned up its 600-gallon supply of liquid oxygen and alcohol fuel in less than three minutes.
- In1964, a seven-car crash kills drivers Dave McDonald and Eddie Sachs on the second lap of the Indianapolis 500, as over 150 US gallons of gasoline burned. Johnny Rutherford, who was also involved in the crash, survived, mainly because his methanol-fueled car had not ignited. The United States Auto Club bans gasoline and switches all cars to methyl alcohol (methanol), a rule which would stay for 41 years before ending after the 2005 race.
- During the Nigerian Civil War of 1966 to 1969, Engineers in the breakaway republic of Biafra resorted to powering vehicles with alcohol. Initially, alcohol was used to supplement the crude oil refining capacity which the fledgling state had under its control, but as the Soviet and UK backed Nigerian army seized the oil producing regions, and with the Nigerian embargo beginning to bite, alcohol became the dominant source of fuel for the economy.
- In 1973, a worldwide energy crisis begins, causing ethanol to become cheaper than gasoline.
- By the mid-1980s, over 100 new corn alcohol production plants had been built and over a billion US gallons of ethanol for fuel were sold per year.
- In the late 1980s and 1990s, new oil wells are discovered and the price of gasoline becomes much cheaper than alcohol fuel. Ethanol plants are subsidized by the U.S. government to support farmers. Gasohol is commonly available in the U.S. Midwest.
- In 1984, the number of ethanol plants peaked at 163 in the U.S., producing 595 million gallons of ethanol that year.
- In 1988, ethanol is first used as an oxygenate to lower pollution caused by burning gasoline.
- Between 1997 and 2002, three million U.S. cars and light trucks are produced which could run on E85, a blend of 85% ethanol with 15% gasoline. Almost no gas stations sell this fuel however.
- In the early 2000s, the invasion of Iraq makes Americans aware of their dependence on foreign oil. This and worry over climate change causes leading alternative energies like biofuel, solar and wind to expand 20 to 30% yearly.
- In 2003, California is the first state to start replacing the oxygenate, MTBE with ethanol. Several other states start switching soon afterward. California consumes 900 million US gallons of ethanol a year, about a third of all the ethanol produced in the United States.
- In 2004, Crude oil prices rise by 80%. Gasoline prices rise 30% in the U.S. Diesel fuel rises almost 50%. These rises are caused by hurricane damage to oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, attacks on Iraqi oil pipelines, disruptions elsewhere, and rising demand for gasoline in Asia, as Asians buy more cars. Alcohol fuel prices are much closer to the price of gasoline. The ethanol industry in the USA makes 225,000 barrels per day in August, an all-time record. Some conventional oil fuel companies are investing in alcohol fuel. Oil reserves are forecast to last about 40 more years. Total use (demand) of ethanol is 3.53 billion gallons.
- In 2005, E85 sells for 45 cents (or 30-75 cents wholesale) less than gasoline on average in the U.S. More than 4 million flexible-fuel (runs on E85 and gasoline) vehicles exist in the U.S. About 400 filling stations exist in the U.S that sell E85 fuel, mostly in the Midwest. Flexible-fuel cars can be identified by a decal inside the fuel door. Gasoline prices rise as ethanol prices stay the same, due to rapidly growing ethanol supply and federal tax subsidies for ethanol. Wholesale ethanol prices drop nearly 30% between January and April, or $1.75 to $1.23 per gallon in the U.S.
- In 2006, the Indy Racing League switches to a 10% ethanol-90% methanol fuel mixture as part of a phase-in of ethanol as part of a switch to an all-ethanol formula in 2007. Bill Gates buys a quarter of Pacific Ethanol Inc.
Additional recommended knowledge