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Jesse inventing ethanol


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I used to think that Jesse Duke was the inventor of ethanol. After all, in the 1979 Georgia episode "High Octane" Jesse ran straight ethanol (aka moonshine) in Black Tillie. 

But today I saw an episode of Beverly Hillbillies where Grannie started an ambulance service and Jed asked her why Duke, the hound dog, had a container of XXX tied onto his collar. (love the name Duke). Of course it was for medicinal purposes but Grannie also said she could put it in the ambulance if it ran out of gas. That was filmed in 1968 so I thought to myself: I guess Grannie invented ethanol. 

Upon further thought I realized that 1979 wasn't the first time Jesse put moonshine in the tank. He told a story about doing it back in the old days, which would have been way before 1968. In fact, it would have been in the era of prohibition. So, Jesse still is the inventor of ethanol. 

Moonshine was (and is) way more expensive than gasoline so I would suspect that the first person who actually tested it tried it in a small engine first. But who knows, maybe it was a desperate moonshiner who needed to get away in their "runner".

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The following is an extract from a North Dakota State University article:



Ethanol’s first use was to power an engine in 1826, and in 1876, Nicolaus Otto, the inventor of the modern four-cycle internal combustion engine, used ethanol to power an early engine. Ethanol also was used as a lighting fuel in the 1850s, but its use curtailed when it was taxed as liquor to help pay for the Civil War. Ethanol use as a fuel continued after the tax was repealed, and fueled Henry Ford’s Model T in 1908. The first ethanol blended with gasoline for use as an octane booster occurred in the 1920s and 1930s, and was in high demand during World War II because of fuel shortages.

Today’s ethanol industry began in the 1970s when petroleum-based fuel became expensive and environmental concerns involving leaded gasoline created a need for an octane. Corn became the predominant feedstock for ethanol production because of its abundance and ease of transformation into alcohol. Federal and state subsidies for ethanol helped keep the fuel in production when ethanol prices fell with crude oil and gasoline prices in the early 1980s.


The second paragraph's timeline ties in nicely with 'High Octane'.

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Interesting Hoss. Thanks for sharing it. The next county over from me has "The Valley that Changed the World". It is where Drake's Well is located, the first oil well in the world and was drilled in 1859. 

I wonder what kind of engine ethanol powered in 1826. I guess the only thing it could have been is steam. 

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