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Re: Ethanol in the Gas

To: MG List <>
Subject: Re: Ethanol in the Gas
From: Max Heim <>
Date: Mon, 01 May 2006 13:56:06 -0700
As I said, other crops may be more efficient. I think you will find
differing analyses of the corn-to-ethanol equation. This one did not appear
to consider fertilizer as an input, for instance. Corn is notoriously one of
the most fertilizer-dependent crops. The fertilizer needs to be produced and
transported, as well, and in very large quantities; generally via diesel
trucks or locomotives.

There are actually cogent arguments against the use of corn as a foodstuff
based on the profligate use of petroleum in its production -- I imagine that
applies just as well to its use as a fuel supplement. More so, I should say,
because it would obviously be more efficient to just use the petroleum as
fuel in the first place. This argument would not necessarily apply to the
use of "waste" biomass.


Max Heim
'66 MGB GHN3L76149
If you're near Mountain View, CA,
it's the primer red one with chrome wires

on 5/1/06 12:44 PM, Andrew B. Lundgren at wrote:

> Max Heim wrote:
>> Bu the fact remains that producing ethanol from corn actually uses more
>> fossil fuel-derived energy than the energy content of the ethanol produced.
>> It's a net energy loss, and still burns hydrocarbons and uses petroeum-based
>> fertilizers, so it's essentially a tradeoff between slightly reduced smog in
>> urban areas and use of diesel equipment, trucks and fertilizer in rural
>> areas. Perhaps the economics of sugar cane or other crops are different, but
>> corn-derived ethanol is essentially an agricultural subsidy.
> From the "National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition" website:
> * Does it take more energy to produce a gallon of ethanol than the
> energy we get out of it?*
> *Response:*
> No. This has been a common misconception of the ethanol industry, that
> it takes more energy to make ethanol than is available to the final
> consumer. Remember, ethanol is produced from plant matter, today
> dominated by corn, wheat, potatoes, sorgum, etc. Plants grow through the
> use of energy provided by the sun and are a renewable resources. In the
> future, ethanol will be produced from waste products or "energy crops."
> In fact, a partner of the NEVC, BC International (BCI), is currently
> constructing an ethanol production plant in Louisiana that will use
> sugar cane waste to produce ethanol. Additionally, BCI is considering
> the establishment of ethanol production facilities in California that
> would use the waste hulls from rice growers and wood waste from the
> forrest industry to produce ethanol. Energy crops such as perennial
> switch grasses, timothy, and other high-output/low-input crops will be
> used in the future.
> Current research prepared by Argonne National Laboratory (a U.S.
> Department of Energy Laboratory), indicates a 38% gain in the overall
> energy input/output equation for the corn-to-ethanol process. That is,
> if 100 BTUs of energy is used to plant corn, harvest the crop, transport
> it, etc., 138 BTUs of energy is available in the fuel ethanol. Corn
> yields and processing technologies have improved significantly over the
> past 20 years and they continue to do so, making ethanol production less
> and less energy intensive.
> --
> Andrew

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