A USDA report has good news about ethanol’s net energy gain: it has increased substantially – 10 percent — in the last 20 years. Higher yields mean less corn is needed to produce ethanol. Corn yields have increased 39 percent. What this means for ethanol is that it now produces more energy than is used to make it.
The report, “2008 Energy Balance for the Corn-Ethanol industry,” states “A dry grind ethanol plant that produces and sells dry distiller’s grains and uses conventional fossil fuel power for thermal energy and electricity produces nearly two times more energy in the form of ethanol delivered to customers than it uses for corn, processing, and transportation. The ratio is about 2.3 BTU of ethanol for 1 BTU of energy in inputs, when a more generous means of removing byproduct energy is employed. ”
The USDA also has good news for dry mills using up to 50 percent biomass power: “The energy output for these plants is near 2.8 times energy inputs, even using the conservative byproduct allowance.”
The report concludes that ethanol has made a substantial net energy gain, and “there are still prospects for improvement.”
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