Nothing beats your local corn-on-the-cob as we continue through the summer grilling season (heat wave or no heat wave!). I’ve heard corn is good for you being that it’s a vegetable but also that it has no nutritional value and the human body cannot digest it like other vegetables.

Just as with corn-on-the-cob’s healthy vs. unhealthy views; ethanol is under the microscope for being a fit fuel replacement or not. Ethanol is a form of alcohol distilled from the sugars found in a wide variety of plants as cited in the July/August 2010 issue of AAA World. Using ethanol as an automotive fuel has been around since Henry Ford’s Model T in 1908 which was designed to run on ethanol, gas or a mixture of two for example. Now we have flexible-fuel vehicles which can run on a more concentrated blend of ethanol and gas (85% ethanol, aka E85) than 10% or less ethanol blend before. But is it worth having a car or truck that takes E85 when less than two percent of gas stations nationwide sell it?

According to the editor of the Green Car Advisor blog, “After 9-11, everyone began worrying about energy security. So the big agribusiness companies began selling the idea of producing ethanol from corn as a way to reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil.” Enter ethanol greenwashing. Auto manufacturers started producing millions of cars that take E85, mainly to help meet federal government Corporate Average Fuel Economy requirements. I’m sure many people felt they were doing their part to help the Earth and reduce emissions with their flex-fuel vehicle purchase. But how many of these vehicle owners have ever filled up with E85?As in the sourcing world, one needs to be cognizant of total cost of ownership. Jan Kreider, a chemical engineer and professor emeritus at the University of Colorado noted as an example, “our recent life-cycle analysis of a number of alternative fuels showed that using corn-based ethanol actually increases CO2 emissions and uses about 30 percent more imported oil when you factor in the diesel fuel consumed by the farm machinery used to grow the corn and the trucks and trans that transport the finished product.” Not to mention the massive amounts of land, water and fertilizers needed to produce the raw materials.

When Jan puts it like this, it's hard to disagree that the corn-based ethanol being produced may be worse for the environment than the gasoline it's meant to replace.
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Tina Lamanna

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3 comments so far,Add yours

  1. As a sourcing "blog" you would think you would do more research than a single source. Apparently not in this case.

    July 13--The energy gain of corn made from ethanol is growing, a new federal study says.

    Ethanol made from corn produces as much as 2.8 units of energy for every one unit of energy used to make the fuel, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report.

    Why would a sourcing "expert" try and throw ethanol under the bus anyway? Can't get enough hits ????

  2. Wow, big words for an anonymous poster. Please keep your comments civil, or we will not allow them to be posted.
    This blog allows our authors to share best practices, news items and to write about topics they are passionate about. If you disagree with a viewpoint, by all means, let us know, but do it in a professional manner.
    And sorry, we are not concerned terribly much about "hits" we don't charge our readership, nor do we have any type of pay-per-click advertising.

  3. It's interesting that the corn lobby reads this blog. It's even more interesting that the corn lobby knows how to read. Actually, I take that back, they dont. Per, which I believe is where Anonymous got their information:

    The net energy balance ranged from 1.4 to 2.8, the report says.

    Some ethanol plants already use biomass power. When that’s factored in, the energy ratio rises to 2.8, the report says

    The 1.4 ratio is the best and truest measure, says Cole Gustafson, biofuels economist with the North Dakota State University Extension Service in Fargo.

    For reference, the output in 2004 was 1.8, meaning that average energy output actually decreased in the past 6 years.

    Of course the corn lobby also loves to tell you that there is nothing wrong with high fructose corn syrup, as long as it is eaten in moderation. Unfortunately if you take a look at the ingredients of almost anything, its 2nd or 3rd ingredient is high fructose corn syrup.