New report shows significant energy efficiency in corn ethanol

by World Grain Staff
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WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. — A report released on Sept. 21 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of Energy Policy and New Uses shows a net energy gain in corn-based ethanol. The report, which surveyed corn growers in 2005 and ethanol plants in 2008, concluded that corn ethanol has seen significant increase in production efficiency.

The findings show for every British Thermal Unit (btu) of energy required to make corn ethanol, 2.3 btu’s of energy are now produced creating nearly two and a half times the amount of energy needed to produce it. This number has increased from 1.76 in 2004.

"The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) is extremely pleased with the results of this study," said NCGA First Vice-President Bart Schott. "But this report really only shows what growers have already known, that ethanol has increased in efficiency much like corn growing. Over the past 20 years, yields have increased by 39% allowing growers to produce growing supplies of corn for both food and fuel using only three percent more land. We see this survey as a positive step forward in reaffirming that ethanol provides a viable energy option available to us right now."

The report also explains that corn ethanol has evolved from an energy sink, a product that used more energy than it produced, to a substantial net energy gain in the present. American ethanol production has grown from a mere 175 million gallons in 1980 to an expected 12 billion gallons in 2010. This production represents nearly 10% of the American gasoline supply. As with corn, ethanol yield continues to improve while making better use of inputs like water and energy.

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