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Posted on  

August 2, 2002

USDA Report: Ethanol Has Large, Growing Positive Energy Balance

Ethanol Provides More Than 6 Btus of Energy for 1 Btu of Liquid Fuels Used

Washington, DC – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today released its new study of the energy efficiency of ethanol production. The report, "The Energy Balance of Corn Ethanol: An Update," concludes that ethanol production yields 34% more energy than is used in growing and harvesting grain and distilling it into ethanol. The report can be accessed on USDA's web site at: www.usda.gov/oce/oepnu/aer-813.pdf.

The study cites increased corn yields, lower energy use in the fertilizer industry, and advances in fuel conversion technologies that have enhanced the economic and technical feasibility of producing ethanol. The study is an update of a previous USDA study completed in 1995, which demonstrated a 24% net energy gain.

In addition to providing a 34% positive energy gain, ethanol production utilizes mainly domestically available energy, such as coal and natural gas. Therefore for every 1 Btu of liquid fuel used to produce ethanol, there is a 6.34 Btu output.

RFA president Bob Dinneen made the following statement concerning the report:

“The new USDA energy balance study concludes that ethanol has a positive energy balance, that it’s growing, and that it will continue to improve in the future. But that’s hardly surprising.

Literally every organization conducting an energy balance study of ethanol over the past decade has concluded the very same thing –with one exception.

“With a positive energy balance, ethanol is clearly the premier environmental liquid transportation fuel – harnessing the power of the sun and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. And by displacing over 6 Btus of liquid fuels for every Btu used during its production, ethanol clearly helps reduce our dependence on foreign oil. As a domestic fuel using U.S. grain as a feedstock, ethanol boosts the U.S. economy – especially in rural America.

“Only Dr. Pimentel disagrees with this analysis. But his outdated work has been refuted by experts from entities as diverse as the USDA, DOE, Argonne National Laboratory, Michigan State University, and the Colorado School of Mines. While the opponents of ethanol will no doubt continue to peddle Pimentel’s baseless charges, they are absolutely without credibility.”



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