June 27, 2011

Busting the 5 Myths of Ethanol: Myth #1


When pulling into the gas station, it’s hard not to gasp when seeing the price of fuel. For many, it easily costs more than $50 to fuel their vehicle. Then a person drives down the road a little ways and sees that a gas station offers E85 at a lower price compared to regular gasoline.

After seeing this they are curious to find out what E85 is and why it actually costs less. Once they have done some research, they find out E85 is actually 85 percent ethanol. However, they still are not sure about using E85 because of all of the myths that have been floating around about ethanol.

Today, we are going to bust the first myth about ethanol and provide you with facts about the ethanol industry. Most of this information came from a post by Forrest Jehlik, who works for the Argonne National Laboratory. His research is energy-neutral and did not post this information as a favor of the ethanol industry.

Our first myth is: Ethanol requires more energy to make than it yields. This myth is false, and research has shown that ethanol actually yields more energy than it uses to make. The Argonne National Laboratory research has shown that ethanol being made from corn actually delivers a positive energy balance of 8.8 mega joules per liter. As technology continues to improve, so does second-generation biofuels. The Biomass and Bioenergy Journal published a study that showed that cellulosic sources are six times better than what we used to use.

There are two main reasons why ethanol is energy positive. The first reason is that corn production is much more efficient than what it was 10, 20 and 30 years ago. Today, corn farmers are producing corn that averages around 160 bushels compared to corn that only averaged 98 bushels back in 1980. Not only has corn yields improved since 1980, but they continue to improve every year.

The second reason is that ethanol is more energy efficient. Most of the corn that is used in ethanol production today goes through the dry milling process, which uses less energy than the wet milling process. Also, the amount of ethanol being derived from each bushel of corn has increased by 50 percent.

As a person can tell, ethanol does not require more energy to make than it yields. This proves that our first myth is wrong and that ethanol is truly a renewable and green resource. To learn more about Nebraska’s corn farmers or the ethanol industry, visit the Nebraska Corn Board's website.

Check back on Wednesday, June 29 to bust the second myth!

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