E85 Boondoggle of the Day: Ethanol Now Accounts for 24% of U.S. Corn Crop

e85 boondoggle of the day ethanol now accounts for 24 of u s corn crop

We've heard a lot about U.S. corn-based ethanol production lately, what with E85 boosters saying it ain't got nothin' to do with rising food prices. In search of some reliable stats on this issue, TTAC's opened its wallet and bought some hard facts to fuel the debate. Industrialinfo.com [sub or PPV] reveals that "the United States now has 156 operational ethanol plants capable of producing a whopping 8.8 billion gallons of the renewable fuel. With an average of 2.6 gallons of ethanol per bushel of corn, that translates to more than 3.4 billion bushels of corn going toward fuel production. Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released numbers that estimate the 2008 corn crop would be about 11.7 billion bushels, meaning that about 24% of the crop will go straight toward ethanol production." I'm not sure who did their math, but when I divide 8.8b gallons by 2.6 gallons/bushel, I get almost 3.4b bushels, which equates to about 29% of the crop. Either way, that's a lot of Fritos. And just in case you want to know whose Senators are behind the .51 per gallon federal subsidies for the corn go-juice, check out this handy little chart. Question: does America actually consume all this ethanol? Hell no. Ethanol Producer Magazine reckons we burned 414k barrels of E85 per day in '07. Round that up to 500k for increased E85 use, and that's 182,500,000 barrels, or 7.6b gallons, per year. I make that 1.2b gallons worth of E85 overproduction, so far. Somebody add some subsidies, quick!

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  • Tulsa_97sr5 Tulsa_97sr5 on Jun 16, 2008

    @Menno and Lumbergh21 ...so you are saying you are the same/better off with 9 gallons of E0 than 10gal of E10? That is a little tough for me to believe. Not saying it isn't true, just asking to make sure I understand.

  • Pch101 Pch101 on Jun 16, 2008
    And yes, the MPG differences are real. The loss in fuel economy with E10 should be about 3.5%. You'd have to rewrite a few scientific laws in order for your results to vary substantially from that.

  • NBK-Boston NBK-Boston on Jun 16, 2008
    menno 48 mpg [on E10] instead of driving on pure gasoline and get[ing] 54 mpg Taking your figures at face value (which is hard to do considering your tests were not under controlled conditions, or alternatively were not over such a large sample of vehicles and real-world conditions as to smooth over daily or weekly variations), your drop is still less than the 12.5% that you calculate. This is a simple case of dividing the difference into the smaller number instead of the larger one, which would have been more appropriate. Consider: Nine gallons of "good" fuel that yields 54 mpg will get you 486 mi of range. Ten gallons of "bad" fuel (which is the same as nine gallons of good fuel plus one gallon of bad additive) that yields 48 mpg will get you 480 mi of range -- almost the same. It's as if the ethanol contributed nothing, not that it somehow robbed the gasoline of its motive force too. Basically, some real-world fleet-derived data would settle the question, but one would want details from a fairly large corporate fleet (50 or 100 cars, at least) run over a whole year, if not two, to get a reliable result. Alternatively, the EPA or Consumer Reports or someone could obtain quantities of different fuels, one guaranteed to be pure, another E10, etc., and run a half dozen different cars through the standard EPA test cycles, under controlled conditions, to get a sense of how different makes and models react to the stuff. Anecdotes and testimonials don't settle the matter in my book, especially when the basic physics suggests the results should be the other way. Such stories are enough to prick my interest, and may justify a day of testing or number crunching, but don't justify firm conclusions.

  • 97escort 97escort on Jun 16, 2008

    Hopefully, someday ethanol will account for nearly 100% of the corn crop. Why? Because feeding corn to animals is a waste of energy. Most people nowadays spend way more on gas than on food. At least I do. Why then should we care if food prices rise if gas prices can be held down a little by ethanol? True we will have to switch from corn fed hogs to grass fed cattle, but is that so bad? High fructose corn syrup is dangerous stuff especially for diabetics like myself. Who needs it? Furthermore corn exports should be stopped since the energy in a bushel of corn is not appropriately priced. I burn corn in my corn stove for winter heat. It is worth $11/bu. compared to LP but sells for only $7 even after the latest run up. When corn is exported the lost energy must be replaced by imported oil at a higher price. If you think gas prices are high now, just wait until the ethanol plants shut down. We should be planning for a very high percentage, even 100%, of corn bushels going to ethanol if we want to keep the American car going.