Fuels: Alternative Fuels

Q: I thought using alternative fuels meant lower gas mileage; how do alternative fuels really compare to gasoline and diesel?
A: The common method to understand the amount of energy in different fuels is by comparing a unit of fuel with a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline by using a Gasoline Gallon Equivalent (GGE) table. For example, if you can drive 25 miles on 1 gallon of regular unleaded gasoline, you would need to burn 1.5 gallons of E85 to go the same distance.

Fuel Type

Unit of Measure

BTUs per Unit

Gallon Equivalent

Gasoline (regular unleaded)



1.00 gallon

Gasoline (reformulated, 10% MTBE)



1.02 gallons

Diesel (#2)



0.88 gallons

Biodiesel (B100)



0.96 gallons

Biodiesel (B20)



0.88 gallons

Ethanol (E100)



1.50 gallons

Ethanol (E85)



1.40 gallons

Methanol (M100)



2.01 gallons

Methanol (M85)



1.74 gallons

Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG)



1.52 gallons

Compressed Natural Gas (CNG)

Cubic Foot


126.67 cu. ft.

Liquefied Petroleum Gas (propane)



1.35 gallons


Kilowatt hour


33.53 kwhrs

Source: National Association of Fleet Administrators, Inc.

Fuels: Ethanol

Q: Can I use ethanol in my vehicle?
A: Any internal combustion engine can use E10 or a lower blend and most gasoline vehicles can run on E50 without additional modifications. You may already be using ethanol in your vehicle because small amounts are blended in much of the gas sold in the U.S. today.

Q: Can I use E85 in my vehicle?
A: If you drive a flexible fuel vehicle (FFV), you can use E85 (85% ethanol, 15% gasoline), but don’t fuel your car with E85 unless you are sure. To see if you own a FFV, check your owner’s manual or use the AFDC Light-Duty Vehicle Search.

Q: Will using ethanol void my warranty?
A: Using ethanol does not void an engine manufacturer’s warranty. Warranties only cover the manufacturer’s parts and workmanship and do not cover any fuel, whether it’s gasoline or ethanol. Use of a particular fuel should not void the warranty. However, if the fuel causes damage to the engine, the damage is not covered by the warranty.

Q: How much does ethanol cost?
A: Ethanol is typically priced lower than gasoline, though prices fluctuate depending on region and time of year. To view current prices, visit www1.eere.energy.gov/biomass/biofuels_data.html.

Q: Is ethanol only made from corn?
A: Most ethanol is made from corn, by grinding the kernels, cooking a mash to convert the starch to sugar, and fermenting and distilling it into pure ethyl alcohol. However, ethanol can also be made from sugarcane, sugar beets, rye, and cellulosic materials like crop residues, sawdust, woodchips, other forestry residue, switchgrass, and other fast-growing plants.

Q: Does using ethanol affect my engine in any way?
A: Ethanol is a high octane fuel and will give your engine more power. But if too high of a blend is used, ethanol can be corrosive to incompatible materials.

Q: Where can I get ethanol?
A: Use the Station Locator to find stations selling ethanol blends near you.


Q: Does it take more energy to make ethanol than I can get out of it?
A: Recent studies have found that by looking at the entire lifecycle of ethanol compared to gasoline, it takes less energy to produce a unit of ethanol than it does a unit of gasoline.

Q: Is ethanol good for the environment?
A: Yes, ethanol biodegrades quickly if leaked or spilled and reduces harmful air emissions.

Q: Does using ethanol decrease my fuel economy?
A: There is less energy in ethanol than gasoline. To get the same amount of energy as 1 gallon of gas, you would have to use about 1.5 gallons of pure ethanol (E100). Ethanol use may lower your mpg, but you are also reducing petroleum consumption.

Q: Because of ethanol, is there less corn available for us to eat or to feed our livestock?
A: Only a fraction of field corn is used for human consumption. The majority of field corn is used for livestock feed, and ethanol production only removes the starch protein of the corn kernel and the protein, vitamins, mineral and fiber are left intact and sold as high-value livestock feed.

Fuels: Biodiesel

Q: Will using biodiesel void my warranty?
A: For diesel vehicles, Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) recommend biodiesel blends ranging from B5 to B100. Although an OEM may only recommend a lower blend of biodiesel, it does not void the vehicle's warranty to use a higher blend of biodiesel. However, if a problem occurs that is the fault of the fuel, it will not be covered by the warranty. If the problem is unrelated to the fuel and is a result of faulty workmanship or parts, it must be covered by the warranty.

Q: How much does biodiesel cost?
A: Biodiesel prices fluctuate like diesel and are different for each blend. To view prices, visit www1.eere.energy.gov/biomass/biofuels_data.html.

Q: Does using biodiesel affect my engine in any way?
A: Biodiesel is a solvent and will clean your tanks, lines and hoses of the deposits left by petroleum diesel. When first using biodiesel blends of B50 or above, fuel filters should be changed more frequently. Biodiesel will add lubricity to protect your engine and the higher cetane rating (compared to diesel fuel) will make the engine run smoother and quieter.

Q: Does using biodiesel decrease my fuel economy?
A: High level blends of biodiesel may contain a lower energy content than diesel, but is typically only noticed when using levels close to B100. For B20, the difference in power, torque, and fuel economy is about 1% to 2%. Blends of B5 or less do not cause noticeable differences in performance.

Q: Where can I get biodiesel?
A: Biodiesel is sold in almost every state. Use the Station Locator to find stations near you.

Q: Does it take more energy to make biodiesel than I can get out of it?
A: No. Biodiesel has a positive energy balance, producing 3.2 units of energy for every 1 unit consumed. Diesel has a negative energy balance, producing only 0.83 units of energy for every 1 unit consumed.

Q: Is biodiesel good for the environment?
A: Biodiesel is a significantly cleaner-burning fuel than #2 diesel. By using biodiesel, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, unburned hydrocarbons, particulate matter, air toxics, and sulfate emissions are all reduced.

Q: Can I run B100 in my vehicle like regular #2 diesel?
A: High level biodiesel blends can be used in most diesel engines with little to no modifications. However, fuel filter should be changed more often at first, oil changes should be performed more frequently, and you should consult with biodiesel suppliers to determine if your vehicle is compatible or would be impacted by operating in cold weather.

Q: Are there health benefits to using biodiesel?
A: Biodiesel is not only good for the environment, it is good for people because biodiesel decreases harmful air emissions that have proven to be carcinogenic to humans.

Fuels: Hydrogen

Q: Why is there such great interest in using hydrogen as an alternative fuel?
A: Hydrogen is a clean-burning fuel that can be produced domestically, and fuel cell vehicles are highly efficient (2-3 times more efficient than gasoline vehicles).


Q: What is regenerative braking?
A: Regenerative braking is used in hybrid or all-electric vehicles. Brake pads use friction to slow down tires, and as a result, heat is produced. The heat normally dissipates as lost energy, but through regenerative braking, the on-board electric motor captures that heat and act as a generator to transfer that heat energy into electricity that is stored in the battery.


Q: What types of activities are available to CWCCC members?
A: Various workshops and training sessions are offered throughout the year, as well as an annual stakeholder meeting.

Q: Where do I mail my completed registration form and check for membership?
A: Mail your application and check made payable to “Columbia-Willamette Clean Cities” to:
4905 SW Scholls Ferry Rd
Portland, OR 97225

Q: Is CWCCC sponsoring any upcoming events?
A: Check out our Events page to see our upcoming activities.

Q: Are there other organizations like CWCCC?
A: There are nearly 100 other Clean Cities coalitions in the United States. All the coalitions are a part of the national initiative established in the Energy Policy Act of 1992. For more information about U.S. Clean Cities or other coalitions, visit www.eere.energy.gov/cleancities.



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