Ethanol, a Misunderstood and Underused Green fuel.

Corn-ethanol is the world’s lowest cost liquid transportation fuel.

China is importing U.S ethanol so are oil producing countries like UAE, Saudi Arabia.

The Energy Complex sees Ethanol as favorable because it is cheap by any standards.

One comment regarding sugarcane ethanol vs. corn-based ethanol we hear over and over is how Brazilian sugarcane based is more efficient and produces more per hectare.

The medias never get this issue correct regarding the U.S corn production.

Basically, we take the U.S corn average bushels per acre and determine efficiency and this calculation is totally incorrect.

Typically, you will never see corn yields in Alabama, Georgia, or peripheral states as high as the corn belt because they don’t have the deep organic rich soils blessing the Midwest.

If you compute yield per acre in the “corn belt” typically American ethanol produced per acre or hectare greatly surpasses Brazil.

And, one thing not mentioned here is octane? Corn ethanol is around 115 octane and big oil only has nasty octane enhancers (reformate, benzene, toluene, and other “enes”).

So as CAFE standards kick in and we desire more horsepower from smaller engines, the only way this will be successful is higher octane values.

Meaning in my lifetime we will probably see the average 87 octane move to a 91 to 94 range as we force small engines.

Ethanol is the cheapest Octane Molecule on Planet Earth.

This plays very well for corn-based ethanol in the future.

Finally, the United States will export 1 billion to 1.2 billion gallons of ethanol to foreign countries primarily driven by “the cheapest octane molecule on the planet. Even Middle East is buying cargoes of Ethanol to blend into their gasoline.

Ethanol is not starving the world. Drymill ethanol production produces FOOD because The process uses only the starch portion of the corn, which is about 70% of the kernel.

All the remaining nutrients – protein, fat, minerals, and vitamins – are concentrated into distillers grain, a valuable feed for livestock. (FOOD).

One corn bushel is 56 pounds and will produce at least 2.8 gallons of ethanol and 17 pounds of distillers grain.

Ethanol produces FOOD despite our medias pretending the opposite.

I’m really glad that students got the point: The 10 percent ethanol mixture in gasoline helps it burning cleaner.

Ethanol is a green fuel that is still underutilized and often unconsidered by our Governments.

Simon Jacques


Blue and Gold Merchants' Club

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One thought on “Ethanol, a Misunderstood and Underused Green fuel.

  1. Good post. One of the many debates about US corn ethanol vs. Brazilian sugarcane ethanol centers around the accuracy of the respective life cycle analysis reports. Even if one takes the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) comments/rebuttals with a grain of salt (a good idea), the assumptions behind the various models are freely available to the public.

    In some of the California Air Resource Board (CARB) documents that are the foundation for their Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS), the model was clearly built by someone lacking a decent understanding of US and Brazilian agriculture. A few examples:

    1. Underestimating the size (tonnage) of US trucks, thereby increasing the trips required to haul corn to an ethanol plant.
    2. Overestimating the use of gasoline in US corn production. Nearly everything runs on diesel, even many pick-up trucks, and they have gasoline at an 18% liquid fuel share.
    3. Rather than calling on-farm or commercial grain storage in the US a series of bins, tanks, silos, (flat) warehouses or even outdoor pads, the reports repeatedly use the term “stacks” which is probably a copy paste from the cane/bagasse sections, but after x number of revisions, no one caught it.
    4. (and here’s where the RFA is correct) The assumption that 50% of Brazilian ethanol moves from the interior to export terminals via pipeline, thereby eliminating a lot of truck transportation fuel and improving cane ethanol’s energy balance. That one is truly laughable to anyone with just a smidgen of knowledge about Brazilian infrastructure.

    I’m not an energy balance expert and I understand that LCAs have to make many assumptions, but it seems that some of the organizations setting pollution and fuel use policy in the US might be overstating the energy balance and GHG reduction of Brazilian ethanol due to some really obvious errors in their model. Brazilian ethanol is probably still “better for the environment” but I doubt its energy balance is ~4x better than corn ethanol (7:1 to 9:1 vs 1.5:1 to 3:1).


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