Study Shows Ethanol Generates More Energy Than It Takes to Produce
- Study Shows Ethanol Generates More Energy Than It Takes to Produce
GreenBiz.com, 29 March 2005 - A recent study by Argonne National
Laboratory found that ethanol generates 35% more energy than it takes to
produce, reinforcing the fact that production of the corn-based fuel
yields a net energy gain.
The findings of the Argonne study support earlier research conducted by
the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Michigan State University, the
Colorado School of Mines, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and other
public and private entities that determined ethanol has a positive net
energy balance. A USDA study released in 2004 found that ethanol may
actually net as much as 67% more energy than it takes to produce.
The U.S. Department of Energy's Office (DOE) of Energy Efficiency and
Renewable Energy said the Argonne study, conducted by Michael Wang,
should help quell debate about the net energy balance of ethanol.
"We believe (the study) has laid to rest some long-held misunderstandings
about ethanol and its important role in reducing America's reliance on
imported oil and our greenhouse gas emissions," DOE officials stated in a
summary of the study. "In terms of key energy and environmental benefits,
cornstarch ethanol comes out clearly ahead of petroleum-based fuels." In
the last 10 years, only two studies -- both conducted by Cornell
University entomologist David Pimentel -- have found the net energy
balance of ethanol to be negative. Many economists have questioned the
validity of Pimentel's findings, arguing that he uses outdated data in
The DOE summary of the Argonne study suggests some researchers fail to
accurately account for solar energy when determining ethanol's energy
"Some of the confusion arises over the fact that some of the total energy
used in the production of ethanol is 'free' solar energy used to grow the
corn in the first place," DOE states. "Since the solar energy is free,
renewable and environmentally benign, we shouldn't care."
Ethanol also has a positive benefit in greenhouse gas emissions
reduction, according to the Argonne study. Wang found that, on a per
gallon basis, corn ethanol reduces GHG emissions by 18% to 29%.