IT'S GREAT to be right. The ethanol industry recently received solid support from Science magazine. In its January issue, Science published a research report concluding that the amount of energy required to produce ethanol is not greater than the amount of energy derived from it. The research looked at previous analyses and, according to Science, “found that the studies reporting negative net energy values are flawed. All of the studies show that current corn ethanol technologies reduce petroleum use significantly relative to gasoline.”
Corn growers have made this claim for years. Yet the old “fact” about ethanol still permeated national media. I opened my son's issue of Popular Science this winter and there in a big story layout about energy sat that annoying “fact” — ethanol took more energy to make than it created. I also found this “fact” in an automobile publication produced by our parent company. My e-mails to the magazine disputing this claim went off into an e-mail never-never land.
But now with the endorsement of a well-known and respected publication like Science, the ethanol industry may gain more respect. And it couldn't come at a better time. The nation is focused on ending a dependence on foreign oil, and many industries are lining up to take advantage of it.
General Motors, for example, read the changing attitude of consumers and is promoting its E85 cars and trucks. In its latest marketing campaign, the big automaker has colored the gas caps of its E85 vehicles yellow to draw attention to their energy efficiency. Customers who already own an E85 vehicle can receive a yellow gas cap from GM for free.
The news about ethanol came about the same time as reports of record earnings for oil companies, including Exxon Mobil. High oil and gas prices produced almost $100 billion in revenue during the fourth quarter for Exxon, compared to $83.3 billion a year earlier. The company posted a profit of $36.13 billion for 2005, compared to a 2004 profit of $25.33 billion.
Consumers who stood at fuel pumps and fumed over $3.00/gal. gas last year will not like hearing how oil companies grandly profited from our pocketbook despair. More consumers than ever are ready to swing their support to alternative fuels, including ethanol and biodiesel. It can only help growers who are trying to find ways to cut their own high fuel prices.
In this issue of Farm Industry News, we take a look at the growing biodiesel industry. In spite of the latest processing problems, biodiesel also holds great promise for Midwestern growers. It seems the growth market for your grain is parked in your garage.