Illinois corn farmers recently invested their checkoff dollars in a study that reveals that U.S. corn-based ethanol industry is becoming even more efficient than in years past. This is valuable, science-based data that can be used to counter the age-old criticisms of ethanol and corn as being “dirty” from an environmental standpoint. Too many regulations at the federal level remain based on bad information and even worse science about ethanol and how you grow your corn.
The study was funded with Illinois corn checkoff monies, partnered with investments from National Corn Growers Association and Monsanto.
According to the study by Steffen Mueller, a researcher at the University of Illinois at Chicago Energy Resources Center, and John Kwik, president of Dominion Energy Services LLC, U.S. ethanol plants revealed a growing trend in ethanol yield and efficient energy usage in ethanol production.
According to IL Corn’s Director of Technology and Business Development, ”This study provides critical data for reducing the overall carbon footprint for corn starch ethanol. Of course, changing the legislated definition of cellulosic ethanol to include corn starch based ethanol is a primary goal of Illinois Corn.”
Of the 162 plants operating in 2012, 84 responded to the survey. According to the results, the average plant used roughly 9 percent less thermal energy than reported in the last survey done in 2008, at 23,862 Btu per gallon of ethanol produced. Water used per gallon of undenatured ethanol decreased to 2.7 gallons. The average ethanol yield in 2012 is 2.82 gallons per bushel of corn, compared to 2.78 in 2008. Corn oil extraction, which was minimal in 2008, saw nearly a five-fold increase, to an average 0.53 pounds per bushel of corn processed.
Additional support for this study was provided by Renewable Fuels Association, Growth Energy, and the Nebraska Corn Board.