Many contend that ethanol is not a viable fuel alternative because it takes more energy to manufacture ethanol than the fuel produces. However, the Numbers Guy reveals some interesting facts:
Pimentel and Patzek wrote, “Ethanol production using corn grain required 29% more fossil energy than the ethanol fuel produced.” By comparison, production of gasoline or diesel uses about 20% more fossil energy than the fuels produce.
The researchers attributed a wide array of energy costs to ethanol production, including the energy required to produce tractors used in cornfields and even all forms of energy consumed by workers for things such as food, transportation and police protection. Equivalent factors generally aren’t included in comparable analyses of rival fuels like gasoline. Also, researchers didn’t take into consideration the value of ethanol by-products, which can be used in cattle feed.
Broin Cos., based in Sioux Falls, S.D., has pioneered a method to convert corn to ethanol at 90 degrees, rather than the previous 230 to 250 degrees, improving energy efficiency by 10% to 12%, according to co-founder and Chief Executive Jeff Broin. And E3 Biofuels LLC is finding ways to get more out of all parts of the corn, by building plants near dairy farms and feeding cows the byproducts of ethanol processing, then using energy from the animal waste to help power the plants
Ethanol may not be the disaster that many pundits believe. If left to the free market, many companies will continue to innovate and advance the technology to the point that the product becomes both useful and profitable. I am not willing to take a stand against ethanol just yet.