The estimated 1959 United States production was 1.6 million metric tons (50 per cent by volume). The price of absolute alcohol, tax-free, in tank-car quantities was $ 0.16 per kg. Density varies: 0.87 g/cc for 75% alcohol; 0.80 g/cc for 92.5% alcohol; to 0.79 g/cc for 96% alcohol.
Ethyl alcohol, or ethanol, has wide commercial uses in both the chemical and the spirits industries and is produced commercially in large quantities. It is a clear, water-white, mobile liquid with the characteristic alcohol odor. It is an excellent solvent; special lubricants must be used. Materials of construction used for methanol are also used for ethanol. Like methanol, ethanol forms explosive mixtures with air or with oxidizers. Denaturants added to the alcohol can cause poisoning, blindness, and death. (Despite this, the Russians liked to call their early missiles 'drunk rockets'. Ethyl alcohol is produced by fermentation of sugars (glucose) or hydrolyzed starches. The majority of the ethyl alcohol for solvent use is made by the hydrolysis of ethyl sulfate, which results from the addition of sulfuric acid to ethylene. Ethyl alcohol forms an azeotrope with water; this solution is 95.6 per cent ethyl alcohol. Absolute alcohol is made by azeotropic distillation with benzene.