Fuel Talk

By Robert Carpenter, Editor | September 2008 Vol. 63 No. 9

That is absolutely true; alcohol burns cleaner. It also burns less efficiently. Burning ethanol reduces substantially that all-important miles-per-gallon standard. Your vehicle may be emitting lower emissions but will be burning more fuel. I remember an old study (back in the days of cheap gas), that basically said it was a wash. Ever wonder why ethanol is just now becoming popular again? The economics just didn’t work.

AEM also stated: “The fundamental basis of their (state of Texas) claim that corn used for ethanol production diverts corn from food production, primarily livestock feed, fails to acknowledge a few realities. First, only the starch from the corn produces ethanol, leaving the co-product distillers grain. Distiller’s grains are a valued high-protein livestock feed which is significantly higher in protein by weight than corn. As a result, almost one-third of each ton of corn used for ethanol production is used as feed.” While I’m sure that’s a correct statement, the fact remains that serious amounts of corn are being taken out of the huge livestock bulk feed market.

Corn is not a natural food for livestock. But it is an acceptable “bulk” food that fills stomachs and adds weight to animals standing around a feedlot. Though corn concentrate by-product from ethanol production may still meet some of the nutritional needs of livestock, it is now costing ranchers, according to estimates by several livestock groups, about 30 percent more for less product. Bottom line, livestock producers, cattlemen especially, are experiencing substantially increasing costs from both rising fuel costs and an increasing shortage of corn – bulk or concentrate. The kicker is that corn is already rapidly losing its luster as a bio fuel as more efficient, plentiful and cheaper alternatives are being realized.

Truth is, we’re just beginning to scratch the surface of bio-fuels, flex-fuels and who-knows-what’s-next fuels – especially as it relates to the construction industry. We need to press the new president and Congress to finally come up with a concerted, sensible approach to energy.