The Truth About Ethanol's Cost

Frank Williams
by Frank Williams

Ethanol is all-around more expensive than gasoline. You don't need to do the math to prove it– because Professor Emeritus Don Elliott of the University of Northern Colorado did it for you. In a letter to the editor of The Tribune, he refutes their misleading claim that ethanol is less expensive and produces less pollution per gallon than gasoline. Using a more realistic measure of cost per miles driven, he shows that a vehicle running on E85 needs 40 percent more fuel to go the same distance as one burning gasoline, and E85 would cost 9.6 percent more per mile driven. On the pollution issue, he figures in the emissions from the fossil fuels used to produce the ethanol as well as the greenhouse gasses E85 produces. When looking at the total pollution produced by each fuel, he computes E85 produces 15.5 percent more greenhouse gasses per mile. How's THAT for an inconvenient truth.

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  • B-Rad B-Rad on Jan 05, 2008

    Hey Alex, even if it is all about just reducing our dependence on foreign oil, ethanol's not doing that either because it requires that foreign oil to produce. And then, because the gas mileage with ethanol is worse, we have to use more foreign oil to produce the extra ethanol necessary to propel our cars. The only advantage is money for those in on the game, and that's only a select few.

  • Durishin Durishin on Jan 05, 2008

    The question of the value of ethanol vs. gasoline as fuels involves is easy - if voluminous to determine. It needs to be looked at by someone who understands bioenergetics and involves answers to the following questions. 1. How much energy does it cost to produce one gallon of ethanol? From raising the corn to harvesting, fementing and producing. 2. How much energy does it cost to produce one gallon of gasoline (extracting, refining) 3. How much energy do you get from one gallon of each? 4. What are the pollutant ammounts associated with the production and utilization of each? 5. What add on effects are there from the production of each (environmental damage to the wilderness or the delta) both immediate and long-term? 6. What costs are involved in balancing those deleterious effects? 6. What are the effects of each on the economy? More directly, what are the effects of re-purposing the corn economy and "de-purposing" the petroleum economy? Now, given that Ethanol starts with 35%-40% deficit in energy per gallon, involves significant amounts of energy to grow and harvest and may have significant and near-immediate impact on estuary quality ('ll bet that - on the overall pollution/ energy equation, gasoline is the lesser of two evils, not to mention the effects of increased corn prices felt in the supermarket.

  • Thx_zetec Thx_zetec on Jan 05, 2008

    "I agree with arush87, Ethanol’s primary purpose at this moment is to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, the environmental effects are secondary. " If that is the purpose then it is doing a poor job. US consumed 300 billion gallons of oil per year, ethanol makes about 5 billion. Adjusting for lower energy content, this is about 1%. But of course this is not really replacing oil, because it takes lots of energy (natural gas for fertilizer, coal, diesel). A more realistic statement would be that the purpose of ethanol is to provide profit as consumer and taxpayer expense (billions in fed and state subsidies, mandates, and tariffs that keep out ethanol from more efficient producers like Brazil). "Additionally, we are looking at an industry in it’s infancy, it will only get more efficient as it matures, and there are technologies in development that will lessen the dependency on corn. A mature ethanol industry using an efficient energy source holds a lot of promise as part of the solution to our energy issues. " Infancy?! Ethanol has been guzzling at the taxpayer teat since the 1970's! Every technology can be improved with time, but some just work better. If the government required bias ply tires I'm sure that they would have improved since the 1960's, but radials are still better. There are many more alternativds (biodiesel from algae, butanol, heck simply not driving giant rigs), why ethanol? Seems like Republicans and Democrats both want to imitate the failed Soviet model of central planning - that's right there from the government and they are here to help us - let them choose the fuels, not a free market. What about other ethanol technologies? If they are competitive, bring them on, if not then forget them. Cellulosic alcohol looks like an even bigger boondoggle than corn - advocates are asking for *additional* subsidies for chemically identical cellulosic, admitting it is even less efficient. "Look no further than Brazil." Brazil's climate allows them to make ethanol much more efficiently, even then they need subsidies (we'd import this but huge tariffs are in place to block efficient foreign producers). Brazil makes about same ethanol as US, but uses much, much less oil and has some domestic oil. If ethanol is totally uncompetitive at 100 dollar oil, we don't need it. May the best technology win, not the one with the best lobbyists.

  • Durishin Durishin on Jan 05, 2008

    Right on! Thx_zetec. Man! Those ADM lobbiests are something else, aren't they! Keep the government out of letting the free market make decisions! Use corn for Fritos and Gummi Bears and keep it out of my injectors! Ha! I can see those posters now! Can't you, Hillary!