CLEMSON, SC, November 9, 2011—Sold as newer, cleaner, more advanced energy technology, ethanol production has been a blistering disaster in the United States.
In the United States, almost all ethanol is made from corn. This means that the sugars in the corn must be fermented, distilled, and dehydrated in order to produce ethanol fuel (ethyl alcohol).
A major downside of producing corn ethanol is the amount of energy required: Ethanol made from corn returns only 25% more energy than is consumed to make it. This means that each gallon of ethanol fuel is only 25% “renewable” energy (a 4:1 ratio). In contrast, Brazilian cane ethanol yields 800% more energy than is consumed in its production (a 1:8 ratio), and is a much better alternative as a sustainable fuel.
Basic chemistry dictates that gallon for gallon, burning ethanol produces only 2/3 as much energy as burning gasoline.
In recent years, Americans have become accustomed to E15 “gasohol” (15% ethanol) at the pumps. Due to government regulations, it’s now extremely rare to find a gas station with ethanol-free gasoline in the US.
This means that the efficiency of E15, measured in miles per gallon, can never exceed 95% of the efficiency of regular gasoline. In actuality, it tends to be far lower. For most cars, ethanol mixes are detrimental to fuel efficiency. For example, the EPA tested 2006 flex-fuel models and determined that with E85 there was an average MPG reduction of 26%. Vehicles advertised as 30 MPG for regular gasoline typically get 22.2 MPG with E85 at the pump.
Ethanol in our fuel supply is not improving our fuel efficiency, but rather decreasing it to depressing levels.