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Corn+Soybean Digest

.Claims that Ethanol has a Negative Energy Balance are Outrageous

The American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) today set the record straight on the allegation that ethanol has a negative energy balance.

“That claim is just outrageous,” says Ron Lamberty, ACE vice president of market development. “The bottom line is that it takes 35,000 BTUs of energy to turn a bushel of corn into a gallon of ethanol, and that gallon of ethanol contains at least 77,000 BTUs. What kind of math is being used to turn this number into a negative?”

Professors David Pimentel of Cornell University and Tad Patzek of the University of California, Berkeley claim that it takes more energy to produce a gallon of ethanol than the ethanol offers as a motor fuel.

“This new study by Pimentel and Patzek is just the latest regurgitation of Pimentel’s research from 1979. It is an amazing routine of mathematical gymnastics to prove a political point, one that is no longer true,” Lamberty says. “Twenty years ago their information may have been correct, but today it couldn’t be more wrong. Pimentel should be taking credit for having helped create today’s truly efficient ethanol production process, not using old numbers to shoot it down.”

Brian Jennings, ACE executive vice president, adds: “Any objective analysis of ethanol’s energy balance equation done in the last 20 years will verify that ethanol contains much more energy than what is used to produce it. The re-release of Pimentel’s antiquated study is a misleading effort by foreign oil apologists to derail important ethanol legislation working its way through Congress.”

Some insight into Patzek’s bias against ethanol can be found on his own Web site: Patzek spent nearly a decade working for Shell Oil Company as a researcher, consultant, and expert witness. He is the founder and current director of the UC Oil Consortium, an organization funded mainly by the oil industry to the tune of $60,000-$120,000 per year, per company.

“Tad Patzek is not a disinterested third party in this debate. It shouldn’t be shocking that someone with such a background in the oil industry would come out opposed to ethanol, a viable oil alternative,” Lamberty says.

Scientific studies have overwhelmingly found ethanol’s energy balance to be positive, many of which can be viewed online at The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s most recent numbers indicate that the corn-to-ethanol process provides a net energy gain of at least 67%.

In a continuing effort to refute the perpetuation of these myths regarding ethanol, Hosein Shapouri – USDA economist and leading authority on ethanol’s energy balance – will give a special presentation on this topic at next month’s ACE Ethanol Conference & Trade Show. His presentation will take place on August 18 at the Qwest Center in Omaha, Nebraska, beginning at 9:30 am.

For more information or to register for the conference, visit Media wishing to attend should contact Kristin Brekke by e-mail at [email protected] to secure credentials for the event.

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