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Critics Blast Anti-Ethanol Study

August 31, 2005

A USDA economist and pro-ethanol groups are refuting a recent study that said ethanol takes more energy to produce than it delivers in a gas tank, according to news reports. Scientists Ted Patzek of the University of California and David Pimentel of Cornell University argued that pro-ethanol studies typically do not include in their calculations the energy used to grow corn nor the $3 billion in government subsidies that underwrite ethanol production. In a June 2003 paper in Natural Resources Research, Pimentel suggested:--29 percent more energy is used to produce a gallon of ethanol than the energy in a gallon of ethanol.--total energy expended in raising the corn—labor, machinery, fuel, fertilizers, herbicide, insecticides, electricity and transportation—contribute to downstream costs of pollution.--Corn production causes more total soil erosion, pesticides, herbicides and nitrogen fertilizer than any other crops. --Power for an ethanol plants come from fossil fuels such as coal. An industry group "Ethanol Across America,” found seven studies that came to the opposite conclusions of Pimentel's studies, according to an article in the Voice News in Michigan. It pointed to a U.S. Department of Agriculture study by Hosein Shapouri in 2002 suggesting that ethanol has a positive energy ratio of 1.67 - in other words, it's an energy-efficient product. Hosein Shapouri himself blasted the anti-ethanol study at an ethanol conference last month in Omaha, Neb.The group contended "it is unfair to attribute all the energy used to grow a bushel of corn and process it into its value as an energy product (i.e. ethanol). Ethanol ... is a co-product of corn processing and therefore should only be charged with the energy that was used to turn it into ethanol.”Ethanol reduces greenhouse gases, and reduces the need for imported oil and refined gasoline - and those are two good goals regardless of specific BTUs lost or gained in producing ethanol, the group said.The group criticized Pimentel and other critics of "adding everything they can think of that is even remotely related to the ethanol process.”
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