Study Shows Ethanol Energy Efficiency Is Growing

by: Tim Plaehn

A new study by the University of Nebraska shows that current ethanol production technology is 2 to 3 times more efficient than previously thought. Earlier studies focused on older, less efficient technologies and this new study helps allay the fears that corn ethanol production uses more energy than it provides.

Here are some of the initial results from the study:

  • Ethanol has a positive net energy balance: 1.5 to 1.6 units of energy for every unit of energy used to produce it.
  • 13 gallons of ethanol are produced for each gallon of petroleum used in the ethanol production life cycle.

Ethanol producers continue to increase their efficiencies and over the last 5 years have been able to produce more ethanol from a bushel of corn and reduce the energy necessary in the process. Ethanol doubters who use past results to bolster their arguments are doing the industry a disservice.

I will close with a quote from Alan Tiemann, a Nebraska Corn Board member:

"We’re talking about energy security and energy diversity, and keeping more of our energy dollars in this country,” he said. “Those kinds of positives are good for the United States as a whole, and specifically for rural America, where renewable ethanol is produced.”