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How much corn do we need to grow to use ethanol?

According to how stuff works it takes 26.1 lbs of corn to make 1 gallon of ethanol.

Through research performed at Cornell University, we know one acre of land can yield approximately 7,110 pounds of corn, which can be processed into 328 gallons of ethanol.

Using a Toyota Camry, the best-selling car in the USA, averages 30mpg on the hwy and one gallon of gas is equal to 1.5 gallons of ethanol; you get approximately 20mpg on ethanol.

Let's say the average mile driven per car in the USA is around 13,000. That takes about two acres of corn.

According to the University of Missouri, about 70 million acres are used to grow corn in 2004. So if all the corn was used to fuel cars we could equal 35 million cars could run off the current level. Granted, no more nachos.

I have tried to find a consensus of how many cars there are in the USA and I get roughly 150 million. Keep in mind that the older cars and trucks will start to wear out and as new flex-fuel vehicles are available we can increase production of the sources of ethanol and get off of the Arab oil binge.

Today, nearly half of ethanol plants in the US are farmer-owned cooperatives. Additionally, a sizeable percentage of the facilities under construction are also locally controlled.

With few exceptions, corn is the primary feedstock for US ethanol production. Ethanol can also be made from other products such as grain sorghum (milo), wheat, barley, sugar cane or beets, cheese whey, and potatoes. Cellulosic feedstocks such as municipal waste or recycled products, --rice hulls, bagasse (fibrous residue from sugar cane), small diameter trees, wood chips, and switch grass--may also be used to produce ethanol, but these products are not yet utilized on a commercial scale. http://www.ethanol.org/production.html

The USA put a man on the moon. I think that we as a nation can decrease our dependence on foreign oil with technology that we have now and that will be developed in the next few years. Ethanol is not the only answer but it surely will be in the mix.

Michael Chavers

St Petersburg, FL

Apr 10 2007 - 5:58pm

Web Letter

You are absolutely correct that corn ethanol as a energy source is a hoax. More petroleum energy is used to make it than you get back burning the ethanol.

Your example of the high-speed train operating in France is also correct. They do a great job, and keep making them better.

But, there is something about this issue that you did not mention.

France gets 75 percent of its electricity from nuclear power. They use their own nuclear plants to not only meet their domestic electrical energy needs, and to run those magnificent trains, but also to earn money exporting electricity to neighboring countries. They have achieved energy independence, and don't emit a lot of carbon dioxide in the process.

I agree that we should build high-speed trains in the USA. But, we will need something other than coal, oil, or natural gas to power them. Solar and other politically correct "renewable" energy sources will not do the job. We need more nuclear power as well.

Charles Hanes

San Jose, CA

Apr 10 2007 - 5:40pm

Web Letter

Mr. Von Hoffman hits on a sweet note in mentioning trains but omits our history with them. Two historical points are worth mentioning.

First of all, George Washington set about trying to create a national transportation system involving canals. This project did not get far before the invention of the train made it obsolete. Nearly a century and a half later, General Motors and the oil industry purchased many of our trolley systems with the specific business plan of dismantling them in order to create greater demand for their products.

Now we have a dangerous, loud and polluted landscape populated by obese angry people who are all waiting for the next quick-fix magic bullet from some corporate huckster.

The solutions are clear, and with a little courage on the part of all of us we could prevent the decimation of the planet by climate change. How about carbon quotas for each American? Each product would have a dollar price and a carbon price and each legal resident gets a monthly carbon quota, just like the sugar and flour quotas in WWII. (If you must live in a 5000-10000 square foot house you may have to choose between heating/cooling it, taking in housemates, and driving) Couple quotas to a real gas tax of several dollars per gallon which is earmarked for public transportation and an official policy of preference for carbon-free transportation (bicyclists, skaters, and pedestrians) and we just might make it.

As the adage goes, “no one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public”. Unfortunately, American stupidity isn’t just enriching fascists anymore, it is leading to the end of life on this planet.

Brad Foster

Eugene, OR

Apr 9 2007 - 10:29pm

Web Letter

How stupid an idea is the promotion of ethanol as a fuel alternative? Very. What is the attraction of this highly impractical plan to supplement the antiquated energy method of fossil fuels with a new fangled, high tech farce that keeps the agricultural-industrial complex and the oil business humming away. Let’s break this down.

Corn, a main ingredient in this out-of-one-pocket, into-the -other charade, is now grown everywhere on behemoth factory farms. Corn, as it has been engineered for industrial purposes, takes up vast stretches of land, and requires cataclysmic amounts of water. As propagated through this perversion of nature, corporate corn production depends highly on insecticides, pesticides, and chemical fertilizers.

All these filthy, McNasty technologies pollute our watersheds and aquifers, create dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico, and ruin our estuaries in the propagation of a freaky weed that is the key source of high fructose corn syrup, and consequent childhood obesity, and epidemic diabetes. Get this. The chemicals going into growing factory farm corn are primarily from the petroleum industry, the other main beneficiary of this ethanol deception mouthed by the decider-in-chief on TV.

If this scheme doesn’t make any sense to you, that’s okay. It shouldn’t because it doesn’t. In order to grow corn to put into alternatives to petroleum, the agro-business leviathan uses petroleum to fertilize, transport, irrigate, cultivate, and pollute the fields with pesticides. Ethanol as an alternative is a shell game, not a breakthrough. \

If we must use any of that god awful petroleum from volatile parts of the world, just put it right in my gas tank. But stop pitching ethanol as the next great technological wonder that will save us all from kingdom come!

Hmm....foreign oil from dubious mideast precincts or ethanol from a environmental blighted American homeland: Name your poison.

Plenty of clever, hopefully ethical people out there have better ideas for fuel alternatives that can become quite profitable and are earth friendly. These folks are not working in the oil industry or for the agricultural industrial complex.

Good old American ingenuity, if you believe it still exists, will one day promote real solutions that are not simply a ruse to redirect material and financial resources to and from the usual corporate special interests such as the oil slops at Texaco or the corn goons who are Monsanto. Industries related to solar, wind, and other renewal resources are about to have their day. If you are a gambling fool, that’s the stock market pony to place your hard earned money on. Save the planet and let the ethanol be!

John Mark Kowalski

Canaan, NY

Apr 9 2007 - 7:24pm

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