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Ethanol Pump, courtesy of Warren Gretz, DOE/NRELEthanol, a renewable alternative to petroleum-based transportation fuels, is a type of alcohol produced by fermenting and distilling simple sugars from biological sources. While ethanol can be made from sugarcane, sugar beets, wheat, barley, potatoes, and many other crops, over 90 percent of U.S.-produced ethanol is currently made from corn.

Newer manufacturing processes allow ethanol to be made from cellulosic feedstocks, such as agricultural waste, forest residue and municipal solid waste. While not yet widely commercialized, these processes are currently the subject of intensive scientific research and speculation.

Many farmers are already selling corn for ethanol production, while others are part-owners in ethanol plants. As cellulose-based ethanol becomes a reality, new markets will emerge for crop residues as well as energy crops like switchgrass. Many challenges will also emerge for truly sustainable ethanol production, including protecting soil and water quality and preserving opportunities for local ownership.

NOTE: Some of the following documents are available as Adobe Acrobat PDFs. Download Acrobat Reader.

ATTRA Publications

Ethanol Opportunities and Questions - IP292


 • Summary • Download PDF  • Buy Print Copy  • View Now
Switchgrass as a Bioenergy Crop - IP302


 • Summary • Download PDF  • Buy Print Copy  • View Now


Ethanol Links

Success Stories

Ethanol -- Agricultural Marketing Research Center
Ethanol Cooperative Boosts Rural Community's Economy
Minnesota Ethanol Program


American Coalition for Ethanol
Information on the American ethanol industry, ethanol-related public policy, news, and announcements.
Biomass Energy Research Association
An association of biofuel researchers, companies, and advocates, BERA promotes education and research on renewable biomass energy and waste-to-energy systems.
Clean Fuels Development Coalition
General information, news, event announcements, and legislative goals.
Corn Refiners Association
The national trade association representing the corn refining industry, CRA provides information on corn refining processes, products, statistics, publications, links, and recent news articles.
Ethanol Market
A private LLC company, Ethanol Market provides current information on commodity prices—including corn, petroleum, sugar and ethanol—as well as related news, links, events, and (for subscribers) market research reports.
Ethanol Producer Magazine
The major trade publication for the ethanol industry.
Ethanol Promotion and Information Council
Includes an introduction to ethanol fuel and links to news articles.
Growth Energy
An advocacy group representing the producers and supporters of ethanol.
Renewable Fuels Association
Information about the ethanol industry, public policy initiatives, and an ethanol resources center, from the national trade association for the U.S. ethanol industry.

Government Sites

Alternative Fuels Data Center: Ethanol
This U.S. Department of Energy website gives a general overview of the ethanol industry, with information, publications, and links about production, markets, energy balance, incentives, and laws.
Bioenergy Web Site
This USDA Farm Service Agency website seeks to expand industrial consumption of agricultural commodities by promoting their use in production of bioenergy (ethanol and biodiesel).
Governors' Ethanol Coalition
Includes information on state and federal ethanol programs, news releases, publications, and links.
Sun Grant Initiative
A national network of land-grant universities and U.S. Department of Energy laboratories, the Sun Grant Initiative is devoted to building a bio-based economy.
U.S. Department of Agriculture: Biofuels Information
This U.S. Department of Agriculture website is mainly an in-depth links directory, including biofuel production, crops, markets, and other economic research.


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This page was last updated on: January 16, 2015