Fueling the automobile: An economic exploration of early adoption of gasoline over ethanol

Carolyn Dimitri, Anne Effland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


When the automobile was developed near the beginning of the last century, it was the relatively new fuel gasoline, not the familiar ethanol that became the fuel of choice. We examine the intersections of the early development of the automobile and the petroleum industry and consider the state of the agriculture sector during the same period. Through this process, we find a series of influences, such as relative prices and alternative markets, that help to explain how in the early years of automobile development, gasoline won out over the equally likely technical alternative ethanol. We also examine the industrial relations in the automobile industry that seem to have influenced the later adoption of leaded gasoline, rather than ethanol, as a solution to the problem of engine knock.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number11
JournalJournal of Agricultural and Food Industrial Organization
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 2007



  • Bioenergy
  • Economic history
  • Ethanol

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Business, Management and Accounting(all)
  • Economics and Econometrics

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