THanks. From what I have seen, this is often the case. People advocate a
solution which doesn't make any sense, yet they haven't analyzed the problem
to know if it is a net gain or loss.
>From: Todd S. Greene [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
>Sent: Saturday, August 11, 2001 2:21 AM
>To: Asa@Calvin. Edu
>Cc: Glenn Morton
>Subject: Re: Agriculture and oil
>Hope you're having fun overseas.
>Below is something interesting along these lines that I happened to
>catch in science news recently.
>Todd S. Greene
>###### Glenn Morton, 7/28/01 9:58 AM ######
>> I put a small piece on my web page about what happens to a modern
>> agricultural system when the oil is cut off. North Korea is a
>> perfect example. Cuba would be also, but I don't have much data on
>> them. It is at
>FOR RELEASE: Aug. 6, 2001
>Ethanol fuel from corn faulted as 'unsustainable subsidized food
>burning' in analysis by Cornell scientist
>Contact: Roger Segelken
>ITHACA, N.Y. -- Neither increases in government subsidies to corn-based
>ethanol fuel nor hikes in the price of petroleum can overcome what one
>Cornell University agricultural scientist calls a fundamental input-
>yield problem: It takes more energy to make ethanol from grain than the
>combustion of ethanol produces.
>At a time when ethanol-gasoline mixtures (gasohol) are touted as the
>American answer to fossil fuel shortages by corn producers, food
>processors and some lawmakers, Cornell's David Pimentel takes a longer
>"Abusing our precious croplands to grow corn for an energy-inefficient
>process that yields low-grade automobile fuel amounts to unsustainable,
>subsidized food burning," says the Cornell professor in the College of
>Agriculture and Life Sciences. Pimentel, who chaired a U.S. Department
>of Energy panel that investigated the energetics, economics and
>environmental aspects of ethanol production several years ago,
>subsequently conducted a detailed analysis of the corn-to-car fuel
>process. His findings will be published in September, 2001 in the
>forthcoming Encyclopedia of Physical Sciences and Technology .
>Among his findings are:
>o An acre of U.S. corn yields about 7,110 pounds of corn for processing
>into 328 gallons of ethanol. But planting, growing and harvesting that
>much corn requires about 1,000 gallons of fossil fuels and costs $347
>per acre, according to Pimentel's analysis. Thus, even before corn is
>converted to ethanol, the feedstock costs $1.05 per gallon of ethanol.
>o The energy economics get worse at the processing plants, where the
>grain is crushed and fermented. As many as three distillation steps are
>needed to separate the 8 percent ethanol from the 92 percent water.
>Additional treatment and energy are required to produce the 99.8 percent
>pure ethanol for mixing with gasoline. o Adding up the energy costs of
>corn production and its conversion to ethanol, 131,000 BTUs are needed
>to make 1 gallon of ethanol. One gallon of ethanol has an energy value
>of only 77,000 BTU. "Put another way," Pimentel says, "about 70 percent
>more energy is required to produce ethanol than the energy that actually
>is in ethanol. Every time you make 1 gallon of ethanol, there is a net
>energy loss of 54,000 BTU."
>o Ethanol from corn costs about $1.74 per gallon to produce, compared
>with about 95 cents to produce a gallon of gasoline. "That helps explain
>why fossil fuels -- not ethanol -- are used to produce ethanol,"
>Pimentel says. "The growers and processors can't afford to burn ethanol
>to make ethanol. U.S. drivers couldn't afford it, either, if it weren't
>for government subsidies to artificially lower the price."
>o Most economic analyses of corn-to-ethanol production overlook the
>costs of environmental damages, which Pimentel says should add another
>23 cents per gallon. "Corn production in the U.S. erodes soil about 12
>times faster than the soil can be reformed, and irrigating corn mines
>groundwater 25 percent faster than the natural recharge rate of ground
>water. The environmental system in which corn is being produced is being
>rapidly degraded. Corn should not be considered a renewable resource for
>ethanol energy production, especially when human food is being converted
>o The approximately $1 billion a year in current federal and state
>subsidies (mainly to large corporations) for ethanol production are not
>the only costs to consumers, the Cornell scientist observes. Subsidized
>corn results in higher prices for meat, milk and eggs because about 70
>percent of corn grain is fed to livestock and poultry in the United
>States Increasing ethanol production would further inflate corn prices,
>Pimentel says, noting: "In addition to paying tax dollars for ethanol
>subsidies, consumers would be paying significantly higher food prices in
>Nickels and dimes aside, some drivers still would rather see their cars
>fueled by farms in the Midwest than by oil wells in the Middle East,
>Pimentel acknowledges, so he calculated the amount of corn needed to
>power an automobile:
>o The average U.S. automobile, traveling 10,000 miles a year on pure
>ethanol (not a gasoline-ethanol mix) would need about 852 gallons of the
>corn-based fuel. This would take 11 acres to grow, based on net ethanol
>production. This is the same amount of cropland required to feed seven
>o If all the automobiles in the United States were fueled with 100
>percent ethanol, a total of about 97 percent of U.S. land area would be
>needed to grow the corn feedstock. Corn would cover nearly the total
>land area of the United States.
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