Ethanol production efficiency improves

Ethanol production continues to increase in efficiency. The latest numbers from USDA’s 2008 Energy Balance for the Corn-Ethanol Industry report show for every British Thermal Unit (BTU) of energy used to make ethanol, 2.3 BTUs were produced. This is a marked improvement from the last report in 2004 when it took 1.76 units of energy to make 2.3 BTUs of energy. The report goes on to say efficiency will continue to improve as the ethanol process evolves requiring less corn per gallon of ethanol plus increasing corn yields will mean more ethanol per acre.

  • Robert Rapier took a close look at this latest analysis. Google the term ” rapier fun with numbers ”

    Refineries have not been getting more efficient this fast, instead, in an attempt to show corn ethanol in a positive light, they have been biasing the way they do their energy accounting.

    For example, a bushel of corn contains a set amount of calories. The 2.77 gallons of ethanol you get from it contains a set amount of calories. Subtract one from the other and you find corn ethanol has a negative return on energy before you begin accounting for the energy used to make it. Giving an energy credit to refinery byproducts still shows a net loss from the calories in that bushel you started with.

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