E85 Boondoggle of Day: 7th Grader Just Says No To Corn

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago


Nearly all the ethanol brewed in the United States is from yellow feed corn; while development into green technology may be hailed by conservationists, it may produce little if any benefit to our lives, and may even trouble them.

Consider the points: If a gallon of gasoline had a price tag of $3.03 (ah, those better days), it would take $3.71 to extract the equivalent from corn for that gallon of gas (similar inefficiencies go for soybean-produced biodiesel as well). And if mass production is perfected, each E85 gallon would still pump 16 pounds of carbon into the atmosphere!

Even if Americans turned our entire corn and soybean arsenal into biofuel, they would replace just 12 percent of our gasoline usage and a paltry 6 percent of diesel, while squeezing supplies of corn- and soy-fattened pork, beef and poultry. Not to mention Corn Flakes.

However, there is a biofuel still in production that in my opinion would fare better than E85 – cellulosic ethanol. Sources for the fuel include agricultural and forestry waste, municipal solid waste, paper pulp, and fast-growing prairie weeds.

And the energy output from it would be two to 36 times that of the gasoline input! Along with that, it will produce 1.9 pounds of carbon dioxide, a 91-percent reduction of gasoline.

I certainly hope this cellulosic ethanol project works, for it obviously outperforms corn. Corn Flakes, anyone?

Dale Satre
Seventh-grader, J. Douglas Adams Middle School

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  • ZoomZoom ZoomZoom on Oct 19, 2008

    Whether or not he's real, whether or not he wrote that letter himself, the content of the letter can't be refuted. This is nothing more than an educational problem. The people who graduate from high school without knowing the difference between positive and negative. Those people grow up and become votors or (eep!) politicians. For this, I blame the government schools... But for that, I have to blame ... us, because we allow government schools, even after having suffered their damaging impact over the last several decades. Yeah, it's a big nasty circle, isn't it?

  • Cgd Cgd on Oct 19, 2008

    If this is real, it's refreshing to see a person of any age actually showing some logic and critical thinking skills. This country seems to be sorely lacking in these.

  • Benders Benders on Oct 19, 2008

    Please, I didn't hear this much preaching in church. Ethanol from corn returns 25% more energy than it consumes according a University of Minnesota study from 2006. Biodiesel actually returns ~93% more energy. There are very few cellulosic ethanol plants operating and they collectively produce only a few million gallons a year; they're still in research phase trying to master the techniques to mass produce cellulosic ethanol. The corn ethanol plant the next town over from me produces 50 million gallons a year. Ethanol from corn is not a long term solution but it is the best we have now. We are and should be researching new technologies. But ethanol from corn serves a purpose as a gasoline oxygenate (unless you want to go back to MTBE). It also helps US farmers who have struggled with under priced corn for years. Corn was $1.99 a bushel in 1973; in 2005, it was $2.04/bushel. That's part of the reason so many farmers invested in ethanol plants.

  • Durishin Durishin on Oct 20, 2008

    Ethanol from corn is wealth redistribution. From Standard Oil to ADM. Evidently, wealth redistribution is all the rage. These days.