miércoles, 24 de octubre de 2007


Ethaol: myths and facts

Myth: Ethanol production uses corn that would otherwise be used for human consumption.

Fact: Corn used for ethanol production is typically the corn that's used to feed livestock. And the production of ethanol provides for the production of distillers grains (DDG), which are used to feed livestock.

Moreover, these leftover grains contain a certain amount of fat. And with today's technology, that fat content can be raised or lowered depending upon the end use. For example, dairy cows and beef cattle require different amounts of fat in their diet to optimize production. The new technology allows ethanol producers to regulate the amount of corn oil present in their DDGs while simultaneously concentrating the amount of protein.

This means that not only are beef and dairy farmers able to acquire feed as an ethanol co-product, the feed they get can be tailored to their specific industry.

Myth: Ethanol harms car and truck engines.

Fact: Every major auto manufacturer approves the use of ethanol blends up to 10 percent under warranty. 10 percent is the most common mix found at today's gas stations. Cars built since the 1970s are fully compatible with a 10 percent mix (E-10).

Myth: It takes more energy to make ethanol than the fuel itself produces.

Fact: According to Michael Wang from the Energy Department-funded Argonne National Laboratory for Transportation Research, the energy used for each unit of ethanol produced has been reduced by about half since 1980. Today, 1 million BTUs of ethanol uses 0.74 million BTUs of fossil fuels (not including the solar energy used to grow corn). By contrast, he found that the delivery of 1 million BTUs of gasoline requires 1.23 million BTUs of fossil fuels.

Wang also noted in his study that energy balance value alone is not meaningful in evaluating the benefit of ethanol or any other energy product. For proper evaluation, a product's energy balance must be compared with that of the product it replaces. And compared to gasoline, any type of fuel ethanol substantially helps reduce fossil energy and petroleum use.

Myth: There's not enough land to grow crops for ethanol.

Fact: Former secretary of state George Schultz and ex-CIA director R. James Woolsey estimate that 30 million acres can replace half our gasoline demand. By taking land now used to grow export crops and instead planting energy crops, it's feasible to eliminate our need to import oil for gasoline.

Moreover, with advances in agricultural technology we can now harvest more corn using much less land.

This myth is also based primarily on corn, and doesn't take into account conventional celloulosic feedstocks such as switchgrass, corn stover and even old newspapers. These feedstocks can significantly decrease the amount of land needed to grow energy crops.

Myth: Switching to ethanol is expensive.

Fact: A new car can be made flex-fuel-capable for about $35. And the cost of adapting a retail gas pump for E85 is as little as $10,000.

Myth: Ethanol is unfairly subsidized.

Fact: Yes, ethanol producers and blenders share a 51-cent-a-gallon federal credit that costs taxpayers about $2 billion a year. Meanwhile, the US also directly subsidizes Big Oil. The General Accounting Office reports that the industry has netted $82 billion from just one line item alone, something called "excess of percentage over cost depletion," and there are many other such clauses. And this doesn't even get into the price tag of protecting shipping lanes to move the oil from point A to point B. The taxpayer picks that up as well.

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