Ethanol Is Nothing New; E10 Gasoline Was Sold In 1930s

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Section of 1933 photo of E10 ethanol fueling station from Nebraska State Historical Society

Section of 1933 photo of E10 ethanol fueling station from Nebraska State Historical Society

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Back in the 1930s, the United States produced the vast bulk of the oil it burned.

It wasn't until the 1973 oil crisis that things like OPEC and fuel efficiency entered the U.S. consciousness. And it took a while longer for the phrase "energy security" to come along.

That's what led to the concept of a homegrown U.S. fuel, in the form of ethanol--the alcohol that is presently mixed into gasoline so that up to 10 percent of your gallon of gas may actually not be gas at all.

All U.S. vehicles have been designed to accept proportions of ethanol up to E10 since 1978.

But in fact E10 has been around a whole lot longer than that, a fact we were reminded of by a 1933 photo from the Nebraska State Historical Society.

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Showing a Lincoln close up and a Cadillac slightly further away, with both cars fueling up at old-style gas pumps with glass meters at the top.

Both pumps say "Corn Alcohol Blend," and the fueling station itself has a large sign at the back that reads, "Try! Corn Alcohol Gasoline, 10% Blend"

Underneath that is the home-state message: "Development Means Cornbelt Prosperity"

As a story by the Society last summer noted, the photo shows cars belong to state governor Charles Bryan and the county sheriff filling up at a station in Lincoln in April 1933.

Back then, ethanol was used both as a relief for farmers ravaged by the Depression and to alleviate engine knocking through the addition of octane.

Unfortunately, advances in tetraethyl lead led the additive to dominate the market.

The Ethyl Corporation, created jointly by Standard Oil, General Motors, and DuPont, sold the highly poisonous substance for almost half a century before it was banned because it prevented the catalytic converters launched in 1975 from working properly.

An antitrust lawsuit against Ethyl failed, and by 1940, E10 gasoline had failed--unable to compete economically with leaded gasoline.

As for all the hollering about E15? We'll leave that for another day.

Have a pleasant long weekend, everyone.

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