The corn-based fuel grabs three-quarters of all federal renewable-energy tax credits, EWG reports. Ethanol gets more four times as much cheese as wind, solar, and geothermal combined. If you add in support for biodiesel, biofuels grab 80 percent — four dollars in five — of federal tax largesse to renewable fuels. In short, the dubious practice of turning corn and soy into liquid car fuel is crowding out other more energy-rich and sustainable energy sources.
A professor from Iowa State University — ground zero of ethanol fervor — has broken ranks and issued a scathing, cogent critique [PDF] of of the ethanol program. Here’s a juicy sample from the paper, by Dennis Keeney, emeritus professor, Department of Agronomy and Agriculture and Biosystems Engineering:
About 6.7% of the gasoline used in the U.S. will be displaced by ethanol in 2009, when corrected for the lower energy content of ethanol and assuming an annual gasoline consumption of 140 billion gallons. Assuming a net energy gain in the conversion of corn to ethanol of 1.25, there is a net energy displacement of approximately 2.8 billion gallons of gasoline, about a 2% net energy gain. If the energy in nonfuel byproducts (e.g. distillers grains, which are used for cattle feed) is removed from the equation, the net energy gain is close to nil. In other words, ethanol from corn will do nothing to boost net energy supplies.