We just had a discussion on ethanol on the Tompkins Sustainability
listserv, and I would like to share one of the most interesting inputs from
an employee of an independent energy firm in our area:
At Cornell, a study has shown the inefficiency of ethanol; please see:
<http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/July05/ethanol.toocostly.ssl.html>Biomass for biofuel isn't worth it
"It seems as if the final word on energy efficiency is still out.
Pimental, who is widely and correctly quoted, is viewed as an extremist.
( He may still be right), Most research indicates a tiny bit of positive
energy produced with corn to ethanol9 10-20%, and a little better for
Biodiesel from soybeans.
Some interesting articles are listed below:
Drunk on Ethanol- Audubon Society:
"But the reformulated-gasoline program has turned out to be a colossal
failure, and the ethanol industry has transmogrified into a sacrosanct,
pork-swilling behemoth that gets bigger and hungrier with each feeding.
Ethanol dirties the air more than it cleans it. Its production requires
vast plantings of corn, which wipe out fish and wildlife by destroying
habitat and polluting air, soil, and water. Of all crops grown in the
United States, corn demands the most massive fixes of herbicides,
insecticides, and chemical fertilizers, while creating the most soil
"Does it take more energy to make ethanol than is contained in ethanol?
That question continues to haunt the ethanol industry even after 27
years of expanding production. Over the years more than 20 scientific
studies have examined the question. This document contains links to the
major studies of the subject completed during the last decade."
<http://www.newrules.org/agri/netenergy.html>New Rules Project - Agriculture - The Energetics of Ethanol: An Introduction and Link to Studies
Here is a good article from renewable energy access, by LesterBrown of
"The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) projects that distilleries
will require only 60 million tons of corn from the 2008 harvest. But
here at the Earth Policy Institute (EPI), we estimate that distilleries
will need 139 million tons -- more than twice as much. If the EPI
estimate is at all close to the mark, the emerging competition between
cars and people for grain will likely drive world grain prices to levels
never seen before. The key questions are: How high will grain prices
rise? When will the crunch come? And what will be the worldwide effect
of rising food prices?
"From an agricultural vantage point, the automotive demand for fuel is
insatiable. The grain it takes to fill a 25-gallon tank with ethanol
just once will feed one person for a whole year. Converting the entire
U.S. grain harvest to ethanol would satisfy only 16 percent of U.S. auto
The competition for grain between the world's 800 million motorists who
want to maintain their mobility and its 2 billion poorest people who are
simply trying to survive is emerging as an epic issue. Soaring food
prices could lead to urban food riots in scores of lower-income
countries that rely on grain imports, such as Indonesia, Egypt, Algeria,
Nigeria, and Mexico."
Today's Ithaca Journal has a report on "Mexican President tries to
contain tortilla prices" due to a surge in corn prices driven by the US
ethanol industry. Seems like the riots are about to start...
And Iowa may have to import corn next year, from who knows where?
According to IATP numbers, the biofuel boom - if fulfilled - will
require Iowa to import 200 million bu. of corn, rather than export 670
million bu. as it did in 2005/06. Nebraska would need even more, 421
million bu., to fill its ethanol-made hole."