We recently caught up with Emily Skor, a St. Paul native and CEO of Growth Energy, a group in Washington, D.C. that advocates for ethanol producers, including some right here in Minnesota. Ethanol is in every gallon of gasoline used in the state, so we thought it’d be good to learn a little bit more about what it is and what it does!
- Q: Emily, thanks again for talking with us, let’s dive right into it. Some of us are familiar with ethanol as an additive to gasoline, but it isn’t something we think about often. Can you tell us what is used to produce ethanol and where it comes from?
- A: Well first, thanks so much for having me. I’m always excited to talk with my fellow Minnesotans. Ethanol is a biofuel produced from plants. Traditionally, that has largely been corn, but exciting innovations have been made recently that are expanding the list of sources for this cleaner, greener form of energy. Now, ethanol can be made from other grains, food waste, and cellulosic biomass, think corn stalks and field scraps. Any of these raw materials can be made into high-octane ethanol. So it’s a very versatile fuel that can be made from abundant, renewable sources that are made right here in America.
- Q: We are always on the lookout for ways to keep ourselves and our families healthy. Are there health advantages to using ethanol?
- A: The greatest health benefit that ethanol has to offer is bettering air quality! According to the United States Department of Agriculture, ethanol reduces greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 43 percent in comparison to gasoline. Moreover, advanced biofuels have the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by over 100 percent.
- Q: Minnesota is the Land of 10,000 Lakes and we love spending time outside. Does ethanol have any other impacts on the environment besides cleaner air?
- A: Actually, it does! Ethanol not only helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions, it has also replaced toxic fuel additives that were linked to cancer, smog, and groundwater contamination. You may have heard of MTBE, which used to be in gasoline and did nasty stuff to our environment. But thanks in part to ethanol, we’ve been able to replace some of those chemicals with ethanol, which is a biofuel made from plants. I think it’s just kind of common sense that something made from plants would be much better for the air we all breathe and the water in all those lakes across Minnesota than a chemical fuel additive, right?
- Q: That makes sense to me. So tell us, how did you get involved with Growth Energy? Are there certain aspects of renewable energy and biofuels that are particularly interesting to you?
- A: I was approached by Growth Energy thanks to my prior advocacy experience. I’ll be honest, I didn’t know a great deal about ethanol before that. But the more I learned, the more excited I got since the proven benefits and growing potential of biofuel are so huge. For instance, I had no idea that the greenhouse gas reducing benefits of ethanol are so significant that it’s the same as removing 20 million cars from our roads every single year. Or that one truckload of American-made ethanol replaces more than 60 barrels of imported oil, which is good not only for the environment, obviously, but also helps makes us more energy independent and creates jobs right here at home. In fact, the ethanol industry supports over 339,000 American jobs and contributes $41 billion to our economy. Once I learned all that, I couldn’t sign up fast enough! At the end of the day, I have two children and I am so happy to be a part of a green movement that will help leave them with a cleaner environment that we inherited.
- Q: What would you tell a mom who is curious about using higher blends of ethanol like E15 in their vehicle?
- A: As a mom I’ll start by saying what you put into your gas tank does make a difference – for you and your family. Like most busy moms, I also don’t pay too much attention when I’m putting gas into my car because I have 15 other things on my mind, so let me offer a few basics to make it easier.. All gasoline sold in Minnesota, and 97 percent of the gasoline sold across the United States, contains ethanol. Usually it is 10 percent of the fuel you put in your tank. But most modern cars can run on higher blends such as E15, which is 15 percent ethanol. If you drive a car that is made in 2001 or newer, you can use E15. It really is a modern fuel for modern cars. If you drive a flex fuel vehicle, you can use even higher ethanol blends. By using more ethanol, you will be using less gasoline and a cleaner, renewable biofuel that is better for our planet.
- Q: That’s all really helpful information, Emily! I already feel like I am better prepared to make informed decisions at the pump that enable me to be a bit more environmentally friendly. Now if I our readers want to learn more are there any resources you would direct them to?
- A: I think the best place to go is a website GetEthanol.com. It’s a great source of information.
Well, that does it! We want to thank Emily for taking the time to help us understand more about the improved fueling options we have right here in Minnesota and hope you all learned as much as we did.