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

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.


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.

6/17/2014 5:13:44 AM

This is nice. Thanks for sharing.

jorge manuel mustonen morel
4/7/2013 10:41:26 PM

Very interesting. Thank you for the informations.

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