This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

February 01, 2006

New Study Confirms Energy Benefit of Ethanol Fuel

Bird's-eye view of the pilot plant, which consists of eight large vessels interconnected with a complex network of piping.

Abengoa Bioenergy's pilot plant in Nebraska is testing cellulosic ethanol technologies.
Credit: Abengoa Bioenergy

Ethanol fuel produced from corn reduces petroleum use by about 95 percent, while also reducing greenhouses gases by about 13 percent, according to a report published in the January 27th edition of the journal Science. In the report, researchers at the University of California-Berkeley's Energy and Resources Group and the Goldman School of Public Policy compared six analyses of the energy required to produce ethanol and the energy benefits of ethanol and other co-products. The report found that those studies most critical of the energy benefits of ethanol ignored the added energy benefits of co-products such as animal feeds and included old or non-representative data about the energy used in the processes. The report also examined the production of ethanol from grasses and other "cellulosic" biomass sources, and found that the energy benefit would decrease slightly, but the greenhouse gas benefits would be greatly enhanced. The authors suggest that such cellulosic ethanol could provide a sizeable fraction of the fuel needed for transportation in the United States. See the press releases from the Renewable Fuels Association and UC-Berkeley, and download the full paper, the six analyses, and supporting research from the UC-Berkeley Web site.

Several companies are already pursuing cellulosic ethanol. Abengoa Bioenergy, which has a pilot plant in Nebraska, is building a plant in Spain to produce 110,000 gallons per month of cellulosic ethanol from agricultural residues. MEMS USA, Inc. plans to build a facility in northern Ontario capable of producing 5 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol per month from forestry and mill waste. And Iogen Corporation is working with Volkswagen and Shell to study the feasibility of building a cellulosic ethanol plant in Germany. See the Abengoa Bioenergy press release, the January 4th press release on the MEMS USA Web site, and the Iogen press release.