Wednesday, March 18, 2015

How Ethanol Production Wastes Corn

Ethanol is a type of alcohol that can be used as a motor fuel or fuel additive. It is also present in alcoholic beverages, scents, and is sometimes used as a recreational drug. Previous studies revealed that ethanol can be produced from lignocellulosic biomass of corn stovers.

The process was originally considered as promising. The use of supposedly “useless” agricultural by-products, like corn stovers, to produce an alternative source of motor fuel was a sensational discovery, considering the scarcity of gasoline available for worldwide consumption.

Further studies revealed however, that the production of ethanol from corn stover has been found out to waste corn because of the following reasons:

1. Ethanol combustion produces 2.14 times as much ground level ozone than gasoline The data was presented by the Clean Fuels Report about the comparison of fuel emissions between ethanol and gasoline.

The report further stated that ethanol contributes 1.7 to the pollution caused by smog, while gasoline contributes only 1.0.

2. Prices of corn increased Because of the increase need in the production of ethanol from corn stovers, the price of corn has actually increased in the market.

The reduced supply of corn as staple food has prompted the increase in its price, while the total cost of producing ethanol from corn has also increased. Either way, the consumers do not benefit in the end.

3. Processing of corn stovers to ethanol is costly Contrary to previous assumptions, the production of a liter of ethanol is more costly than 1 liter of gasoline.

This is because the process of hydrolysis needs large amounts of water, needs more money to deal with carbon emissions, and requires more energy for its processing. The sugars present in the corn stovers have also to undergo fermentation before they are converted to ethanol, adding more production costs.

4. Environmental friendliness of ethanol is in question Ethanol from corn is not altogether environmental friendly because it produces acetaldehyde and formaldehyde which are considered as harmful substances. These substances can cause cancer when persons are exposed continuously for a long period of time. They pollute the environment through the water that you drink, the air you breathe and the substances or food that you take in.

The US national budget for the production of ethanol from corn was recently slashed last June, 2011 by the US Senate because of some of these aforementioned reasons.

The corn prices have dropped since then, and with this development, the corn industry would go back to being one of the primary sources of food for humans and animals and not as a source of biofuel.