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Obama’s beloved New E15 gas can ruin auto engines

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ethanol-effect

Cornell ecologist’s study

finds that producing ethanol

and biodiesel from corn and

other crops is not worth

the energy

 

By Susan S. Lang

 

July 5th, 2005

 

Cornell University

News Service

 

Turning plants such as corn,

soybeans and sunflowers

into fuel uses much more

energy than the resulting

ethanol or biodiesel generates,

according to a new Cornell

University and University

of California-Berkeley study.

 

__PROFESSOR DAVID PIMENTEL

 

Pimentel-1

 

“There is just no energy

benefit to using plant

biomass for liquid fuel,”

says David Pimentel,

professor of ecology and

agriculture at Cornell.

 

“These strategies

are not sustainable.”

 

Pimentel and Tad W. Patzek,

professor of civil and

environmental engineering

at Berkeley,

conducted a detailed analysis

of the energy input-yield

ratios of producing

ethanol from corn,

switch grass and wood

biomass as well as for

producing biodiesel from

soybean and sunflower plants.

 

Their report is published

in Natural Resources Research

(Vol. 14:1, 65-76).

 

 

In terms of energy output

compared with energy input

for ethanol production,

the study found that:

 

  • corn requires 29 percent
  • more fossil energy
  • than the fuel produced;
  •  
  • switch grass requires
  • 45 percent more fossil
  • energy than the fuel
  • produced; and
  •  
  • wood biomass requires
  • 57 percent more fossil
  • energy than the fuel
  • produced.
  •  

In terms of energy output

compared with the energy

input for biodiesel production,

the study found that:

 

  • soybean plants requires
  • 27 percent more fossil
  • energy than the fuel
  • produced, and
  •  
  • sunflower plants
  • requires 118 percent
  • more fossil energy
  • than the fuel produced.
  •  

In assessing inputs,

the researchers considered

such factors as the

energy used in producing

the crop

(including production of

pesticides and fertilizer,

running farm machinery

and irrigating,

grinding and transporting

the crop)

and in fermenting/distilling

the ethanol from

the water mix.

 

Although additional

costs are incurred,

such as federal and state

subsidies that are passed

on to consumers and the

costs associated with

environmental pollution

or degradation,

these figures were not

included in the analysis.

 

 

“The United State

desperately needs a liquid

fuel replacement for oil in

the near future,”

says Pimentel,

“but producing ethanol

or biodiesel from plant

biomass is going down

the wrong road,

because you use more

energy to produce these

fuels than you get out from

the combustion of

these products.”

 

Although Pimentel advocates

the use of burning biomass

to produce thermal energy

(to heat homes, for example),

he deplores the use of

biomass for liquid fuel.

 

“The government spends

more than $3 billion a

year to subsidize ethanol

production when it does

not provide a net energy

balance or gain,

is not a renewable energy

source or an economical fuel.

 

Further,

its production and use

contribute to air,

water and soil pollution

and global warming,”

Pimentel says.

 

He points out that the vast

majority of the subsidies

do not go to farmers but

to large ethanol-producing

corporations.

 

“Ethanol production in

the United States does

not benefit the nation’s

energy security,

its agriculture,

economy or

the environment,”

says Pimentel.

 

“Ethanol production

requires large fossil

energy input, and

therefore, it is contributing

to oil and natural gas

imports and U.S. deficits.”

 

He says the country should

instead focus its efforts

on producing electrical

energy from photovoltaic cells,

wind power and burning

biomass and producing

fuel from hydrogen conversion.

ethanol-1

Cornell University

scientist terms corn-based

ethanol

‘subsidized food burning’

 

By Roger Segelken

 

August 23rd, 2001

 

The Cornell Chronicle

 

CORNELL.EDU

 

Neither increases in government subsidies to corn-based ethanol fuel nor hikes in the price of petroleum can overcome what one Cornell agricultural scientist calls a fundamental input-yield problem:

It takes more energy to make ethanol from grain than the combustion of ethanol produces.

At a time when ethanol-gasoline mixtures (gasohol) are touted as the American answer to fossil fuel shortages by corn producers, food processors and some lawmakers,Cornell’s David Pimentel takes a longer range view.

“Abusing our precious croplands to grow corn for an energy-inefficient process that yields low-grade automobile fuel amounts to unsustainable, subsidized food burning,”

said the Cornell professor in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

 

___PROFESSOR DAVID PIMENTEL

 

david_pimentel

Pimentel, who chaired a U.S. Department of Energy panel that investigated the energetics, economics and environmental aspects of ethanol production several years ago, subsequently conducted a detailed analysis of the corn-to-car fuel process.

His findings will be published next month in the forthcoming Encyclopedia of Physical Sciences and Technology.

 

Among his findings:

  • An acre of U.S. corn yields about 7,110 pounds of corn for processing into 328 gallons of ethanol.
  •  
  • But planting, growing and harvesting that much corn requires about 140 gallons of fossil fuels and costs $347 per acre, according to Pimentel’s analysis.
  •  
  • Thus, even before corn is converted to ethanol, the feedstock costs $1.05 per gallon of ethanol.
     
  • The energy economics get worse at the processing plants, where the grain is crushed and fermented.
  •  
  • As many as three distillation steps are needed to separate the 8 percent ethanol from the 92 percent water.
  •  
  • Additional treatment and energy are required to produce the 99.8 percent pure ethanol for mixing with gasoline.
     
  • Adding up the energy costs of corn production and its conversion to ethanol, 131,000 Btu are needed to make 1 gallon of ethanol.
  •  
  • One gallon of ethanol has an energy value of only 77,000 Btu.
  •  
  • “Put another way,”
  • Pimentel said,
  • “about 70 percent more energy is required to produce ethanol than the energy that actually is in ethanol.
  •  
  • Every time you make 1 gallon of ethanol, there is a net energy loss of 54,000 Btu.”
     
  • Ethanol from corn costs about $1.74 per gallon to produce, compared with about 95 cents to produce a gallon of gasoline.
  •  
  • “That helps explain why fossil fuels —
  • not ethanol —
  • are used to produce ethanol,”
  • Pimentel said.
  •  
  • ethanol-2
  •  
  •  
  • “The growers and processors can’t afford to burn ethanol to make ethanol.
  •  
  • U.S. drivers couldn’t afford it either, if it weren’t for government subsidies to artificially lower the price.”
     
  • Most economic analyses of corn-to-ethanol production overlook the costs of environmental damages, which Pimentel says should add another 23 cents per gallon.
  •  
  • “Corn production in the U.S. erodes soil about 12 times faster than the soil can be reformed, and irrigating corn mines groundwater 25 percent faster than the natural recharge rate of ground water.
  •  
  • The environmental system in which corn is being produced is being rapidly degraded.
  •  
  • Corn should not be considered a renewable resource for ethanol energy production, especially when human food is being converted into ethanol,” Pimentel said.
     
  • The approximately $1 billion a year in current federal and state subsidies (mainly to large corporations) for ethanol production are not the only costs to consumers, the Cornell scientist observes.
  •  
  • Subsidized corn results in higher prices for meat, milk and eggs because about 70 percent of corn grain is fed to livestock and poultry in the United States.
  •  
  • Increasing ethanol production would further inflate corn prices, Pimentel said, noting:
  •  
  • “In addition to paying tax dollars for ethanol subsidies, consumers would be paying significantly higher food prices in the marketplace.”
  • Nickels and dimes aside, some drivers still would rather see their cars fueled by farms in the Midwest than by oil wells in the Middle East, Pimentel acknowledges, so he calculated the amount of corn needed to power an automobile:
     
  • The average U.S. automobile, traveling 10,000 miles a year on pure ethanol (not a gasoline-ethanol mix), would need about 852 gallons of the corn-based fuel.
  •  
  • This would take 11 acres to grow, based on net ethanol production.
  •  
  • This is the same amount of cropland required to feed seven Americans.
     
  • If all the automobiles in the United States were fueled with 100 percent ethanol, a total of about 97 percent of U.S. land area would be needed to grow the corn feedstock.
  •  
  • Corn would cover nearly the total land area of the United States.

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