Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Corn Ethanol Triumphant: Good Omen for Biomass

Brian Westenhaus presents an optimistic story of corn (maize) ethanol triumphing over environmental obstructionists and academic thumb-suckers. Brian points to an amazing study (PDF) that catches the laggard academic research up to the ambitious reality of farmers and the ethanol industry. In other words, while environmentalists and academics have been sitting on their thumbs, real people in the real world have been accomplishing impressive things.
The study’s ethanol-to-petroleum output/input ratios ranged from 10:1 to 13:1 but could be increased to 19:1 if farmers adopted high-yield progressive crop and soil management practices, according to the study. Using advanced closed-loop ethanol production technology with anaerobic digestion reduced GHG emissions by 67% and increased the net energy ratio to 2.2, from 1.5 to 1.8 for the most common systems. These numbers are much better than the 1.5:1 so often seen and discounted to below 1:1 by non expert pundits. _NewEnergyAnd Fuel
Corn ethanol production did not reduce food production, since the total corn production increase more than compensated for the diversion of maize to ethanol. In fact, since dried distiller's grains (DDGs) byproduct from the corn ethanol process is used as healthy livestock feed, available food corn (for animals and people) has gone up. Apparently, virtually everything we have read about corn ethanol from pundits, academics, and mainstream journalists is wrong -- because the academics and intellectuals were using old data. [Editor: Maybe the pencil pushers have gotten lazy following the PC talking points. They forgot how to check the real world to confirm the validity of their marching orders for the day.]

The implications of this new study suggest that the transition to biomass (once cellulosic conversion to sugars is perfected) will be much smoother and productive than anyone predicted.  Since cellulosic crops grow on marginal lands, with minimal watering and cultivation, the energy return from biomass alcohol production should be even greater than for corn.

Read Brian's article and try to understand the growing sophistication of the corn ethanol industry. People in the industry have to make a profit -- unlike politicians, journalists, and thumb-sucking professors. And in the age of Obama - Pelosi, making a profit is becoming ever more difficult.

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