Ethanol

Ethanol has been perhaps the most controversial renewable energy source in the United States.  Ethanol is essentially just alcohol, and it can (up to a point) be used as a replacement for gasoline.  Ethanol, like any alcohol, is distilled from sugars, which can come from a wide range of sources.  In the U.S., the vast majority of ethanol is made from corn, which has a far lower energy input-to-output ratio than does sugarcane ethanol, which dominates Brazilian production.  There is an active debate about how inefficient corn-based ethanol is, but both critics and supporters agree that it is not a long-term solution.  Ethanol advocates see cellulosic ethanol as a much better long-term prospect.  Cellulosic ethanol uses enzymes to break down the cellulose contained in all plant matter to create sugars, which are then distilled to create ethanol.  Although it is only being produced on a small scale right now, celllulosic ethanol may hold great promise and can use any of a range of fuelstocks (source material) from switchgrass to grass clippings.

Although Valley 25x’25 has no official position on the desirability of ethanol as an alternative fuel, we are not promoting corn-based ethanol production in the Shenandoah Valley because it does not make economic or environmental sense in our region. Valley 25x’25 promotes sensible renewable energy solutions that are appropriate for our unique natural and human environments in the Shenandoah Valley.

  • Westcott – Ethanol Expansion.pdf
  • Wang – Energy & Emissions of Ethanol.pdf
  • Ethanol Analysis.pdf
  • CBO – Impact of Ethanol on Food Prices.pdf