Make Your Own Fuel! Alcohol Fuel Basics

It takes some mechanical aptitude, but you can make your own fuel by fermenting appropriate feed stocks into 96 proof alcohol.

| April/May 2010

  • make your own fuel - corn field
    For small producers, the best choices as ethanol feedstocks are crops with a lot of starch or sugar, such as corn (shown above) or sugar beets.
    ADRIAN MATTHIASSEN/FOTOLIA
  • make your own fuel - agricultural biomass
    If you decide to make your own fuel, many forms of agricultural biomass can serve as feedstock.
    PHOTO: AP PHOTO/STEVE POPE
  • roller press
    Turning plants into fuel! A small roller press crushes sorghum cane to extract the juices for fermentation.
    RICHARD FREUDENBERGER
  • agitation vat
    An agitation vat breaks down grain into a fermentable form.
    COURTESY SARE
  • fuel ethanol still
    A homemade small-batch fuel ethanol still at West Orchards in Missouri.
    DAN WEST
  • The costs to make your own alcohol fuel.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS editors

  • make your own fuel - corn field
  • make your own fuel - agricultural biomass
  • roller press
  • agitation vat
  • fuel ethanol still

What if there were a fuel that was affordable, renewable, and produced right in your own community? If you’d lived 100 years ago, you would have known all about such a fuel. It was called alcohol, and it was a clean-burning fluid generally sold as lamp fuel. Only recently have we taken a renewed look at alcohol fuel — now more commonly known as ethanol — and its potential as a domestically sourced fuel for transportation.

I’m not here to tell you about the agri-industrial agenda to produce ethanol on a massive scale. What I am going to tell you is how to make your own fuel to use in your vehicle or in other gas engines, such as a motorcycle, tiller, or lawn tractor. You can modify these gas engines to run on straight alcohol (more on engine modifications in “Run Your Car on Ethanol,” below).

If it’s produced on a small-scale, ethanol can be made from grain you grow yourself — or from a wide range of other local and sustainable feedstocks including food waste and crop culls. With a little specialized equipment and know-how, you can turn these materials into alcohol fuel, and it will cost less than you would pay at the pump for gasoline or commercially produced ethanol.

You can produce your own ethanol for an ongoing cost of less than $2 per gallon. If you grow your own corn, you can distill more than 300 gallons of ethanol from 1 acre of corn. If you drive less than 10,000 miles per year, you could produce all your own fuel from 2 acres of corn — and, granted, a lot of labor. In short, when I talk about ethanol, I’m talking about do-it-yourself fuel, and practicing local self-reliance on an individual and community scale.



Why Choose Alcohol Fuel?

One of the strongest arguments for ethanol fuel is that we can make it ourselves, with no dependence on foreign resources. In 1925, Henry Ford told a New York Times reporter that “There’s enough alcohol in one year’s yield of an acre of potatoes to drive the machinery necessary to cultivate the fields for a hundred years.” This self-made businessman recognized the value of the American farm, and more specifically, the importance of domestically sourced materials. He envisioned farms across the country providing the crops needed to make both fuel and food.

Another reason ethanol is such an attractive fuel option is that it’s basically liquid energy. Ethanol is a clear liquid that packs a lot of energy into a usable, storable, and transportable form — only petroleum can compete with ethanol on an energy-per-volume basis. But ethanol has an added benefit in that it’s oxygenated, meaning it has oxygen in its molecular structure, which results in a cleaner burn. Compared to gasoline, ethanol emits about 20 percent less  hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide.

billsteph82
11/5/2017 5:35:08 PM

It will destroy most rubber fuel lines. You should add another paragraph or 2 on what needs to be done to the fuel system. Also how will this work with newer cars that pretty much run with the aid of all the computers on board nowadays?


Jorgen
6/17/2014 5:13:44 AM

This is nice. Thanks for sharing. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C_utcOWbN7E


Jorge Manuel Mustonen Morel
4/7/2013 10:41:26 PM

Very interesting. Thank you for the informations.











Mother Earth News Fair Schedule 2019

MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR

Next: February, 16-17 2019
Belton, TX

Whether you want to learn how to grow and raise your own food, build your own root cellar, or create a green dream home, come out and learn everything you need to know — and then some!

LEARN MORE






Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 64% Off the Cover Price

Money-Saving Tips in Every Issue!

Mother Earth NewsAt MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet's natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. You'll find tips for slashing heating bills, growing fresh, natural produce at home, and more. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.95 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.95 for 6 issues.

Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
International Subscribers - Click Here
Canadian subscriptions: 1 year (includes postage & GST).


Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter flipboard

Free Product Information Classifieds Newsletters