Skip to comments.Study says ethanol not worth the energy
Posted on 07/17/2005 4:09:40 PM PDT by Graybeard58
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) -- Farmers, businesses and state officials are investing millions of dollars in ethanol and biofuel plants as renewable energy sources, but a new study says the alternative fuels burn more energy than they produce.
Supporters of ethanol and other biofuels contend they burn cleaner than fossil fuels, reduce U.S. dependence on oil and give farmers another market to sell their produce.
But researchers at Cornell University and the University of California-Berkeley say it takes 29 percent more fossil energy to turn corn into ethanol than the amount of fuel the process produces. For switch grass, a warm weather perennial grass found in the Great Plains and eastern North America United States, it takes 45 percent more energy and for wood, 57 percent.
It takes 27 percent more energy to turn soybeans into biodiesel fuel and more than double the energy produced is needed to do the same to sunflower plants, the study found.
"Ethanol production in the United States does not benefit the nation's energy security, its agriculture, the economy, or the environment," according to the study by Cornell's David Pimentel and Berkeley's Tad Patzek. They conclude the country would be better off investing in solar, wind and hydrogen energy.
The researchers included such factors as the energy used in producing the crop, costs that were not used in other studies that supported ethanol production, said Pimentel.
The study also omitted $3 billion in state and federal government subsidies that go toward ethanol production in the United States each year, payments that mask the true costs, Pimentel said.
Ethanol is an additive blended with gasoline to reduce auto emissions and increase gas' octane levels. Its use has grown rapidly since 2004, when the federal government banned the use of the additive MTBE to enhance the cleaner burning of fuel. About 3.6 billion gallons of ethanol were produced last year in the United States, according to the Renewable Fuels Association, an ethanol trade group.
The ethanol industry claims that using 8 billion gallons of ethanol a year will allow refiners to use 2 billion fewer barrels of oil. The oil industry disputes that, saying the ethanol mandate would have negligible impact on oil imports.
Ethanol producers dispute Pimentel and Patzek's findings, saying the data is outdated and doesn't take into account profits that offset costs.
Michael Brower, director of community and government relations at SUNY's College of Environmental Science and Forestry, points to reports by the Energy and Agriculture departments that have shown the ethanol produced delivers at least 60 percent more energy the amount used in production. The college has worked extensively on producing ethanol from hardwood trees.
Biodiesel can be used in any diesel engine with few or no modifications. It is often blended with petroleum diesel to reduce the propensity to gel in cold weather.
Facts won't matter here. The ethanol subsidy to corn farmers is too big of a pork barrel program to be stopped by mere scientific evidence.
My Money (via Government Extortion) will keep it alive for years anyway.
I hate ethanol and so does my Jimmy. However, around our metropolitan area we are forced to use gas with ethanol added. My truck switches gears easier, runs cooler, and gets a couple more miles a gallon when I can fill up in the outlying areas. Ethanol also burns out the fuel injectors and the fuel line linings.
Expect the freerepublic ethanol lobby to arrive soon...
Some of you may remember this same experiment in the 70s. We had quite a few companies that offered the ethanol formula substitute. It finally faded away. Why is this touted like some revolutionary technology? My gosh, the Japanese were using coal powered vehicles right at the end of the war, so burning corn/soybeans/grass is new?
Ok, now everyone trot out their hydrogen powered econoboxes, I want to see them. I'm not poo-pooing legitimate ideas but some of this stuff is cost-prohibitive, just like the study shows, DUH!
Let's just take over the Middle Eastern oil fields, manage them properly like good capitalists, make some money and create a stable market, heck the Left is accusing us of doing that anyway, let's oblige them!
Ping them and bring em to the party! I can't believe there are people on this board who believe ethanol serves any useful purpose except to line the pockets of some midwest corn farmers.
--I'm still waiting to see tractors cultivating corn, burning ethanol and anxiously await the usage of ethanol in the distilleries rather than natural gas to cook the stuff---
Yeah, we can't have THAT. Not when we can line the pockets of some filthy Arab or bloated oil company baron instead.
Archer, Daniels, and Midland. They have the best politicians money can buy.
And thus the laws of thermodynamics are preserved to the annoyance of the ethanol crowd.
You obviously didn't read the article. It takes more energy (oil, natural gas, nuclear, whatever) to produce ethanol than it produces. By using ethanol we are further lining the pockets of the "filthy Arab or bloated oil company baron".
Useful purpose? What would a good Merlot be without it?
Hmm. Merlot and ethanol. I hadn't thought about it. Let me know how it turns out.
Brazil uses ethanol based on a sugar cane manufacturing product cycle. The plant fermenting and distilling the ethanol product produces surplus electricity by burning the stalks. Since embarking on this energy independence path twenty years ago, Brazil is now an energy exporter with a huge number of ethanol running autos. The ethanol is sold side by side with gasoline at local stations, the cost is 30 to 40 per cent less than gas. Acre for acre, cane from the tropics can convert more solar energy to fuel than corn from the temperate zones. This could be a partial solution for Hawaii, Florida, Puerto Rico, some parts of Texas and La.
They probably ARE midwest corn farmers.