For the past century, specifically during agricultural surpluses and/or fuel shortages, the
The potential for ethanol as a fuel source first arose during World War I, as incredible fuel shortages ensued; it was at this time that Henry Ford began researching the production of alcohol from grain; this was part of Ford’s lifelong interest to join agriculture to industry. However, no official testing was able to be conducted until the post-war era brought a concern that worldwide petroleum supplies would soon be depleted. The post-war era also brought about the end of the Progressive reform and Prohibition. Due to ethanol’s use in beverage alcohol, alcohol distillers during Prohibition latched on to it as an alternative fuel in attempt to save their dying businesses. They would provide a number of arguments to promote their product’s use as a straight fuel or blended with traditional gasoline to create gasohol (a mixture of conventional gasoline with any type of alcohol, generally portioned at 10-25% alcohol). The most important of these advantages involved countering the growing problem of engine knock, increased power, and very similar fuel mileage data to that of conventional gasoline.
The first major attempt to market gasohol occurred in 1922 when the Standard Oil Company tested a 25% blend in the
The potential for alcohol based fuel sources arose again during the early 1930s, as agriculture took an intense dive, bringing corn prices down to ten cents per bushel. Grasping for any hope of saving their farms, agricultural leaders threw incredible amounts of support at promoting and advancing technology in ethanol fuel. This actually led to the creation of the “Motor Fuel Alcohol Committee,” which consisted of a number of Midwestern alcohol supporters. This committee would investigate the potential for nationwide use of corn to produce ethanol, and would ultimately conclude that if the
Agriculture’s use in industry would seemingly die until 1935 when the ever persistent Henry Ford, in unison with Dr. William J Hale, Mr. Francis Patrick Garvan, and Dr. Charles Holmes Herty, brought industrial and agricultural leaders together to promote the potential of combining science, industry and agriculture. The First Dearborn Conference, May 7-8 1935, attempted “to offer an alternative to the domestic-allotment, acreage restriction agriculture programs of the New Deal and Secretary of Agriculture Henry A. Wallace” (Giebelhaus 179). This conference brought members to Henry Ford’s replica of Independence Hall in
This led to the construction of the first major ethanol refinery in
The late 1930s allowed supporters the opportunity to reflect on their experiments and test markets of the previous years. They, along with such organizations as the Farm Chemurgic Council and the USDA, concluded that alcohol would never reach a cost low enough to prove any benefit as even a five or ten percent blend in straight gasoline. While the agricultural industry was seeing a great amount of benefit from these programs, without tax incentives, they simply wouldn’t be able to supply ethanol at an affordable cost. However, the one major positive pulled from the 1920s and 30s showed the United States that as a long-term alternative fuel source, that ethanol could potentially support the nation’s need for motor fuel. Ultimately, the