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Pros and Cons of Ethanol

The Pros and Cons of using Ethanol

It would seem like the government would have us believe that corn-based ethanol is the answer to replacing fossil fuels; well, at least a partial answer anyway. The pros and cons of ethanol are varied, as are the analysis results when it comes to whether or not making ethanol from corn produces a net gain of energy or realizes a net loss.
Mixing ethanol with gasoline easily advances at least three purposes. Ethanol is a renewable resource that reduces our dependence on foreign oil, burning ethanol in car engines results in less pollution than pure gasoline, and ethanol replaced MTBE which was dangerous in its own right. While these are positive attributes, ethanol's many disadvantages might outweigh its promise as a clean, and efficient transportation fuel.

Ethanol Production costs are Inflated

This renewable fuel from corn has a hefty production cost. Ethanol requires fertilizers, insecticides, and diesel fuel in order to grow, harvest, transport the refined corn into a motor fuel, which hardly offsets the expense to import foreign petroleum products. Ethanol is a corrosive agent and it absorbs water; therefore, it must be transported via trucks and trains which burn diesel, further increasing ethanol's price and lowering its status as an efficient transportation fuel.

Corn-based Ethanol is not the only answer

President Bush recently visited Brazil, where he praised that nation's ethanol industry; an industry based on sugar cane ethanol. Brazil, similar to the Dallas-based Maple Cos in Peru, uses sugar cane as its primary source for ethanol; sugar cane based ethanol is more efficient than corn based ethanol.

corn tortilla

The United States imposes a steep tariff on Brazilian ethanol, which effectively prevents Brazil from exporting ethanol to the US. Sugar can ethanol from Peru is currently free from any tariffs on agricultural products due to the Andean Free trade agreement.

Other Resources for Producing Ethanol

Cellulosic Ethanol is made from the stems, leaves, stalks and trunks of plants, none of which are grown as a food for human consumption. According to the MSU Office of Bio-based Technologies, large-scale cellulosic ethanol production based on the yield of energy crops, such as switch grass and woody materials grown for their energy content will increase dramatically. This will reduce pressure on our farmland resources, and increase the output of raw materials thereby resulting in less expensive U.S. produced ethanol.

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