It's almost impossible to have a discussion about ethanol (particularly online) without someone bringing up the old canard that "it takes more energy to make ethanol than you get out of it." That may have been true 30 years ago when ethanol production was in its infancy, but a new report shows that today's ethanol has a more than 2-1 net energy gain.
The report was released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture following surveys with ethanol producers and corn farmers and is summarized in a press release they issued this week. The authors found that for every "British Thermal Unit (BTU) of energy required to make ethanol, 2.3 BTUs of energy are produced. They also noted that the net energy gain was even higher for ethanol plants that use biomass as a process energy source - like ours in Chancellor, S.D.
The report highlighted tremendous efficiency gains that have been realized since 2004 when the net energy gain for ethanol production was 1.76/1. It also said that there are still prospects for improvement.
This is a point that we try to make all the time. Ethanol is still a relatively new industry and efficiency gains are rapid. And because production is a biological process, the ability to improve efficiency is nearly limitless.
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