Farm fields landscape

Making Your Own Fuel Yes or NO

From Ethanol Producers and Consumers (EPAC) via Ethanol Producer's Database

[Editor's note: The following are all good questions that need considering before committing to alcohol fuel production.]

When considering making your own Fuel, please weigh all the odds and if you decide to go ahead, then make sure you are doing so Legally, Safely and with all the care such an undertaking requires.

Wise article to read with care and attention

  • The answer to the question about making your own fuel is NO usually.
  • Or at least, not easily and not cheaply.
  • Do not fall for the scam.

This letter, from one of EPAC's good members tells the reasons.

Shirley Ball
FROM: Doug Durante
RE: Home Made Ethanol and Efforts to Blend
DATE: May 2, 2006

As I noted in a memo last week, there has been significant attention devoted to the idea of home stills and making your own fuel. Although I was interviewed by ABC News for this story, the piece they ran was only a few seconds, and failed to get across any of the major points we wanted to stress. I have had reports from New York, Montana, and other places where similar stories are gaining interest and I thought I would offer some talking points as to why this is a bad idea:

Any interview should begin with the fact that we/you applaud interest in ethanol and the desire to reduce our use of oil. However, there are several issues associated with the production and use of ethanol that should not be minimized.

The ABC reporter I spoke to referenced the fact that we have been making "moonshine" for hundreds of years so what's the big deal....... I responded that some of those consumers of moonshine have gone blind.

It may be difficult for many of us as ethanol supporters to oppose anything that is pro ethanol, but this is a bad idea.

We have worked for more than 25 years to have ethanol accepted as a high quality component of motor fuel.

Making it and mixing it by individuals invites disaster, and the possibility that stalled cars or a neighborhood that blows up is blamed on ethanol –by the same reporters who are hyping this story—could set us back decades.

Talking Points for the Homemade Ethanol Craze:


Some of the web sites completely minimize and gloss over permitting requirements. A federal operating permit is required by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Among other things the permit requires a diagram of the layout of the "facility", and it is extremely unlikely they would issue a permit for production in a garage, a basement, or any other area not zoned for such activity.

There are state permits that would be required, and possibly local jurisdictions would have additional requirements.Air permits, construction permits, etc. could prevent almost all of these from going forward and people would be wasting their money to buy these stills-- or risk operating illegally.


As we all know, ethanol has to be rendered undrinkable by adding a denaturant like gasoline. To meet the letter of the law this would require on site blending, meaning the home still operator would have to keep and store gasoline or some other approved denaturant. Obviously this raises all kinds of handling and safety issues.

Other Safety Issues:

There are quite specific and detailed fire fighting requirements associated with ethanol production at any level, and the "invisible flame" phenomena is something that requires training. Again, having someone playing with ethanol and gasoline in the garage next to your house is a frightening thought.
Whether one considers it a safety or health issue, or both, the waste water and distillers grains disposal is an issue. And, of course, odor is a potential issue.

Quality Control:

The production of FUEL Grade ethanol is governed by Standards established by the American Society of Testing & Materials (ASTM) which covers everything from the proper ph balance for acidity levels to the proper storage and transport tanks. It is unlikely an individual would be able to comprehend or administer all these requirements.

Some of the home grown advocates note that the "stills" they are selling produce 160-180 proof ethanol—meaning it could contain as much 20% water. They acknowledge it needs to be taken to fuel grade, requiring more and expensive equipment. This is a step many may find a mere formality and they decide to skip it.

Several of the websites promoting this homemade approach also advocate making your own blend of fuel, particularly E85. In addition to the obvious dangers of mixing and pouring fuel from one container to another, everything from picking up contaminants along the way to improper blend volumes becomes an issue. Putting a blend of E85 in a conventional auto, or putting more than 85% in a Flex Fuel vehicle would present . And, with the aforementioned water issue, this could result in significant performance problems.

Again, we need to stress that this a highly regulated, quality controlled industry and it should not be minimized. No one would promote refining crude oil into gasoline in their basement—why would we think ethanol should be made that way?

Our industry would be set back decades if poorly mixed fuels result in automobiles breaking down, and warrantees being voided. Additionally, the first house fire or casualty that is traced back to someone making their own ethanol would be a PR nightmare.

So, here are some sound bites for talking to reporters:

  • Leave it to the professionals!
  • Fuel grade ethanol is a much more difficult level to achieve than low grade "moonshine".
  • Failure to produce fuel grade could void warranties and cause serious engine problems.
  • People selling these stills and kits are not telling the whole story!
  • There are safety and handling issues, as there would be with any combustible, flammable fuel.
  • It is unlikely you would ever get a permit to produce this other than for an on-farm operation.
  • Filing for other permits (air, construction, etc.) could result in a significant amount of time and expense.

There are some tax issues in that you may be liable for motor fuel taxes or collecting sales tax if you sell this to another individual.

There may be liability issues exposing you to lawsuits resulting from any personal or property damage.