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Monday, September 05, 2005 

Pride: Ethanol Debunk

I somehow missed this article on ethanol from a corn farmer and ethanol investor. He debunks the biased Pimental study with simple numbers.

The study uses a corn yield number that is 16% lower than the national average and a yield of ethanol that is also 16% lower. The energy balance is positive using Pimental’s calculation with these corrected figures.

I would argue that energy balance is not the only consideration in the use of ethanol. Rye makes the point:

An important point overlooked by Pimental is that ethanol production uses abundant U.S. resources of natural gas and coal as ethanol plants use these domestic energy sources to create a product that replaces imported oil.
I would go further by saying that many of the fossil fuels used in ethanol production can be replaced by renewable sources, including using bio-diesel for the transportation cycles and solar/nuclear for the distilling process. Remember that this process replaces a fuel that we depend on our enemies to supply to us.
The USDA's Agricultural Economic Report Number 721 dated July 1995 states that each gallon of ethanol produced domestically will displace 7 gallons of imported oil.
Even at a negative energy balance ethanol makes sense because much of the energy used/lost is in renewable or self-sufficient forms. Would you trade fuels that cannot run your car for one that can, even if you give up more BTUs in the bargain? I would, you can’t get to work using coal or solar (yet).

The Pimental study intimates that every BTU used in ethanol production is gasoline, this is far from the truth. I can’t imagine that he didn’t know this at the time of writing, which calls into question his methodology and motive.

Certainly Mr. Rye is also biased (as am I), but he makes very good points. Points which the detractors have no answers.

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