Historic Friendship & Innovation Fuels A Greener Future

With Black History Month soon ending, we wanted to take a moment to remember one historical figure we all learned about in grade school whose impact extended far beyond just peanuts.

Beyond his fame for peanut applications, George Washington Carver’s research and influence extended across the entire industry of agricultural chemistry. His career aim was to give farmers in the South alternatives to cotton and create new markets to break into, and ultimately became an early proponent of environmentalism.

Carver’s commitment to a cleaner, greener planet is paying dividends today, and while many are familiar with much of Carver’s legacy, you may be surprised to learn that he also dabbled in automotive fuels. Carver is widely credited with discovering a method for turning soybeans into oil, which today is a common feedstock for making biodiesel.

His acclaim as an agricultural chemist eventually caught the attention of Henry Ford, another historic innovator, who was turning to agriculture to learn more about biofuels, which, like Carver, he considered the “fuel of the future.”

While Ford was designing early concepts of the Model T car, he sought out Carver’s expertise in agricultural chemistry to help make his biofuel vision a reality. The two developed a friendship and working relationship that would last the rest of their lives, with Ford saying Carver was “the greatest of all my inspiring friends.”

Ford would eventually design a car that could run on ethanol, a renewable biofuel made from plants, and in 1942 after years of correspondence, showcased a vehicle built with a plastic body made from Carver’s soybeans. The hard work, foresight, and resourcefulness he shared with Carver continues to benefit us all today.

All these years later, we’re continuing to build off of Ford and Carver’s automotive and agricultural legacies in the field of biofuels. In fact, ethanol is in 97% of all gasoline sold in the United States. The same fuel that Carver and Ford envisioned is now helping reduce greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 43% and significantly cutting our reliance on foreign oil.

More and more, drivers are gaining access to fuels with higher blends of ethanol such as E15, which has 5% more of the biofuel than regular gasoline.

By adding more ethanol to our fuel, we’re able to take advantage of all the biofuel has to offer. That translates to lower greenhouse gas emissions and less wear and tear on our engines. It also is higher octane, which means more horsepower at a favorable price point.

All told, E15 is a 21st century fuel that is fit for use in all cars made 2001 and newer. Drivers across America have traveled over 500 million miles on this high-performance fuel.

Carver and Ford would be excited to learn that Americans are using more biofuels than ever before. Their vision of a world powered by ethanol is becoming reality.

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