Don’t think I have been ignoring the University of Minnesota study out this week that has given ethanol some bad press. I have just been playing catch up after being out of the office for a couple of days.
Fact is, the study is actually positive in many ways. For one thing, the report finds that ethanol from corn produces roughly 25 percent more energy than is consumed in growing the corn and producing and delivering the fuel, which refutes some studies that have claimed a net loss.
More importantly, the main point of the study is that ethanol could only replace about 12 percent of the gasoline used in this country, even if we used all of the corn grown to produce ethanol. That is very true. The point is, NObody in the ethanol industry has EVER claimed that ethanol is the end all and be all for the US becoming energy independent. BUT, it can REDUCE our dependence on foreign oil. That is the key – and it is already doing that.
Here is a good story about the Minnesota study that puts it in perspective, from the Lincoln Journal-Star.
Also, it is important to note the positives about biodiesel in the report, but comparing it to ethanol is kind of like comparing apples to oranges. Most passenger vehicles in the US do not run on diesel fuel, but lots of big trucks, buses, and boats do – so that is where biodiesel will help lessen our dependence on foreign oil.
Here’s another good point, direct from the press release from the University. According to Douglas Tiffany, research fellow, department of applied economics and another co-author of the study, ethanol and biodiesel plants are early biorefineries that in the future will be capable of using different kinds of biomass and conversion technologies to produce a variety of biofuels and other products, depending upon market demands.
And .. both ethanol and biodiesel have a long-term value as additives because they oxygenate fossil fuels, which allows them to burn cleaner. Biodiesel also protects engine parts when blended with diesel.
So there are really lots of positives in the report, while many of the media reports have dwelled too much on the negatives.