Ethanol Biofuel Production

Ethanol production plants have been built in the Midwest and have also been promoted heavily through Federal subsidies. Is ethanol a serious player in the market for alternative energy?

In our nation’s quest for energy independence ethanol is being proposed as an important component, that is a tough argument though.

Why are we using farm lands to make fuel for automobiles when it is not the most practical thing to do? There is still plenty of oil in the Earth, and plenty of room for improvements in efficiency and renewable energy technologies.

Ethanol has been driving up food prices by competing with the grains market. Farmers deserve to earn good money there is no question. That the gasoline market is competing with our fundamental food production capability, however, brings a good argument.

A disadvantage of ethanol is its heat content is lower than other fuels. It’s energy density is only 60% of gasoline (HHV = 12,700 BTU/lb vs. 20,500 BTU/lb), and so pound for pound doesn’t deliver the same amount of useful energy.

One could envision ethanol being used to heat homes and make hot water, but that is not currently it’s marketed use.

Maybe the final blow against ethanol biofuel is that, unlike solar power, wind power, and other alternative energy systems, it is not tapping a source of free energy (unless it is derived from agricultural waste). When one considers the energy consumed in the planting, harvesting, processing, and refining of the grains then ethanol is actually quite expensive as a fuel. With almost half the energy of gasoline or diesel but similar amounts of production costs it doesn’t add up in every case.

In total, ethanol production as practiced today is not as valuable of an alternative energy as some would have us believe. Using agricultural waste to generate ethanol, on the other hand, has a lot of potential in years to come. It falls into a broad definition of alternative energy but currently ethanol is not tapping a free energy source like some alternatives do.

For more information about ethanol biofuel you can learn more and get a free report at this solar energy kit website.

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Originally posted 2010-03-01 09:39:02.

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