Business Week Online tries to take a somewhat balanced look at ethanol here that falls a bit short. The article has a decidedly cynical tone about ethanol but does present some positive information regarding the energy issue, presenting the findings of Michael Wang with the Argonne National Laboratory for Transportation Research – some very good research. Whenever anyone starts talking about how much fossil fuel is used in the production of ethanol, here is the information to use.
According to “The Energy Balance of Corn Ethanol: An Update” –
Corn ethanol is energy efficient, as indicated by an energy ratio of 1.34; that is, for every Btu dedicated to producing ethanol there is a 34-percent energy gain. Furthermore, producing ethanol from domestic corn stocks achieves a net gain in a more desirable form of energy, which helps the United States to reduce its dependence on imported oil. Ethanol production utilizes abundant domestic energy feedstocks, such as coal and natural gas, to convert corn into a premium liquid fuel. Only about 17 percent of the energy used to produce ethanol comes from liquid fuels, such as gasoline and diesel fuel. For every 1 Btu of liquid fuel used to produce ethanol, there is a 6.34 Btu gain.
Here’s a link to a listing of studies about ethanol on the Argonne website. Most, like the one above, are in pdf format.