Reconsidering Ethanol | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 92 Issue 17 | p. 3 | Letters
Issue Date: April 28, 2014

Reconsidering Ethanol

Department: Letters

The Patent Picks item “From Cellulosic Ethanol to Butanol” begins with the statement, “Blending ethanol into gasoline oxygenates the fuel, reduces pollution, and stretches petroleum supplies” (C&EN, Feb. 24, page 39). This statement is wrong on two counts.

First, ethanol-containing fuel may create less pollution per gallon of fuel burned, but because it requires more fuel to drive 1 mile, it actually calculates to create more pollution per mile driven.

Second, numerous studies show the total energy required to grow the corn, convert it to ethanol, transport it to the refiners, and blend it into the fuel is greater than the energy generated. So we actually end up having to import more petroleum when using ethanol in gasoline than when using straight gasoline.

Your statements are commonly made by the businesses that benefit from the ethanol and corn business, but I would hope a science magazine would get the science right.

David Berkebile
Landenberg, Pa.

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