The statement in the Daily Globe, Dec. 4, 2006, concerning ethanol production that "all-in-all, ethanol production is consider a "no-waste" process, because all the bi-products of its production can be used..." overlooks current research.
In fact (from Cornell University News), "turning plants such as corn, soybeans and sunflowers into fuel uses much more energy than the resulting ethanol or biodiesel generates, according to a new Cornell University and University of California-Berkeley ethanol study. "There is just no energy benefit to using plant biomass for liquid fuel," says David Pimentel, professor of ecology and agriculture at Cornell. "These strategies are not sustainable."
And of course the hundreds of trucks going into Wright and the water that will be used have to be considered as part of a true review on whether the plant would benefit SW Kansas. None of these issues seemed to be part of the Daily Globe article by Ashley Nietfeld. Those involved in the review process must consider all of the facts, not just a few individuals' financial gain.
December 16, 2006
Facts about ethanol production
In recent editorials, there have been several myths concerning the ethanol industry stated as fact. I would like to take a moment and try and set the record straight.
Myth: Ethanol consumes more units of energy than it yields.
Fact: Ethanol yields roughly 1.3 units of energy for every 1 unit it consumes. Furthermore, gasoline yields less than 1 unit of energy for every unit it takes to produce it.
Myth: Without government subsidy, the ethanol industry would not be viable.
Fact: The $0.51 tax credit attributed to ethanol plants is in fact used by the blenders. It is the fuel stations that receive this credit, not the ethanol plant. The ethanol industry, just as most industries, including the petroleum industry, is subsidized. The only tool the government has to encourage industry growth is tax relief. As a result, most industries in this country receive tax relief in one form or another.
Myth: The ethanol industry overuses water.
Fact: An ethanol plant does use more gallons of water than it produces in gallons of ethanol. However, the ratio is three gallons of water per gallon of ethanol, not 30-37:1.
Myth: Ethanol is toxic.
Fact: Ethanol, as most chemicals are, is toxic. Keep in mind, however, ethanol is the alcohol found in beer and wine. A fuel ethanol plant is not intended for producing ethanol for human consumption. The most toxic portion of our fuel ethanol is the natural gasoline used to denature it. Furthermore, every time you fuel your car with gasoline, you are exposed to benzene, a known cancer-causing chemical.
Myth: Ethanol is less fuel efficient than gasoline.
Fact: Ethanol is currently less fuel efficient as E-85. That is to say, a mixture of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline will yield less miles per gallon than standard gasoline. E-10, 10 percent ethanol, is just as efficient as straight gasoline. However, like most myths, no one asks the important question of "why?" A flex fuel engine is a gasoline engine modified to be able to utilize ethanol. If the engine were manufactured to utilize ethanol, would gasoline yield as many miles per gallon as E-85?
Finally, the ethanol industry has never stated it is the solution to our current energy dependence as a nation. What we do believe we are is a piece of the solution. Why would we want to continue to buy oil from countries that want to do harm to us? I would much rather pay for fuel produced in the Midwest and not from the Middle East.
The ethanol industry is not a “super scam.” The ethanol industry is founded upon the idea of helping solve our energy dependence and, at the same time, strengthening our farm economy. There is a tremendous amount of "myths" about the ethanol industry. Most are only half-truths at best. Again, we do not believe we are the complete answer to our energy problem.
One question I have for you. Do you know what the original fuel Henry Ford intended for use in the Model-T was? Answer: ethanol.
Steven R. McNinch,
Western Plains Energy