At today's commodity prices, the raw corn for a gallon of ethanol costs $1.30-$1.35, plus shipping. Add 50-60 cents for the distillery and 20 extra cents for truck and rail transport to the remote terminals, and wholesale ethanol is far above the current refinery price of $1.47 per gallon of gasoline.
The ethanol distillery does give byproduct animal feed but that benefit is negated by the 25-30 percent lower energy value of the ethanol.
In addition, a recent DOE study states biomass processes also present "a significant environmental burden (green house gases, soil depletion and erosion, waste water disposal, etc.)."
Ethanol is a useful MTBE replacement, but it won't do much for the environment or end our reliance on foreign oil.
(Westgard is a member of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists.)
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