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Posted on  

August 20, 2003

Anti-ethanol claims have run out of gas

GRAND FORKS - A letter printed in Friday's Mailbag, "Ethanol costs too much and hurts too many" , criticized ethanol production from every angle with little regard for real truth.

Vicki Voldal Rosenau, the letter's author, based her negative perceptions of ethanol on studies conducted by Cornell University professor David Pimentel.

Pimentel's research stubbornly concludes that ethanol production has a "negative energy balance," or that it takes more energy to produce a gallon of ethanol than the amount of energy available in the fuel itself.

However, as Rosenau should know, Pimentel is the only researcher in the last 10 years who has concluded that ethanol production has a negative energy balance, and his research has been thoroughly discredited by experts at the Argonne National Laboratories, the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture and even the respected Pew Center on Global Climate Change.

A devastating blow to Pimentel's research came last August when the U.S. Department of Agriculture released an updated study that determined ethanol production yields 34 percent more energy than is used in growing and harvesting grain and distilling it into ethanol. That study put Pimentel to rest - or so I thought until reading the Herald Friday.

Rosenau's belief that ethanol production contributes to "environmental degradation" also is naive. Modern ethanol plants are awesome displays of efficiency. Many of these facilities discharge zero wastewater and, with the latest control technologies, are more environment- and community-friendly than most ag-processing plants.

Today, many ethanol plants have no visible stack emissions and a nearly imperceptible odor.

Compared to the profusion of pungent ag-processing smells that we deal with in the Grand Cities, ethanol production should be the least of our worries and should take a back seat to more important local headlines.

Tom Bryan

Bryan, a former Herald reporter, is managing editor of the Grand Forks-based Ethanol Producer magazine.



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