Corn Commentary

Ethanol…Pinata or Juggernaut?

For years ethanol opponents have beaten on the fuel like a piñata but a funny thing keeps happening…it survives and after each attack the fuel’s reputation grows as does its market.

Ethanol’s reputation grows because the fuel is getting greener. Each new look shows increases in production efficiencies, less water and energy use, more gallons per bushel of corn and even previously estimated projections of greenhouse gasses are proving to be wrong as the science gets better.

A new report out by the US Department of Agriculture today “indicates the net energy gain from converting corn to ethanol is improving in efficiency.  

  • The net energy balance of corn ethanol has increased from 1.76 BTUs to 2.3 BTUs of required energy.
  • Ethanol has transitioned from being an energy sink to a “substantial net energy gain in the present. And there are still prospects for improvement.
  • Ethanol yields are up 10% in the last 20 years.
  • Corn yields have increased 39% in the last 20 years, requiring less land to produce ethanol. 

Titled  2008 Energy Balance for the Corn Ethanol Industry the report surveyed ethanol producers about ethanol yield per bushel of corn and energy used in ethanol plants.

While we are rolling out the good news on ethanol keep these statistics in mind too:

  1. For the 1st time, DDG availability will displace more than 1 billion bushels of corn in livestock rations this marketing year, providing a high-quality, high-value feed product for livestock producers, both in the US and abroad. 
  2. In the U.S., corn production has more than doubled since 1980, on only 3% more land. That’s an impressive move from 6.6 billion bushels o 13.2 billion bushels, pushed by yields gorwing from 91 bushels an acre to 163.5 bushels per acre today.