In Illinois, ethanol seems to be viewed as the solution for our country's dependence on foreign oil.
One bushel of corn can produce approximately 2.8 gallons of ethanol, but it takes energy - and 4 gallons of water - to produce that gallon of ethanol.
There are production costs in growing corn: herbicides, insecticides, fertilizers - often petroleum-based - and fuel. Therefore, ethanol is a helpful component in reducing our dependence on foreign oil, not a panacea.
The ethanol plants need to increase efficiency and minimize the environmental costs.
The distillation process results in animal feeds, primarily distillers' dried grains with solubles, 18 pounds of DDGS per bushel of corn. Currently, research is being conducted to maximize the quality of the DDGS produced, to identify the proper amount of DDGS that livestock consume in order to produce top quality meats and to reduce water consumption.
Other ways to increase efficiency involve using alternative sources for energy. For example, methane produced at landfills could be utilized as an alternative to petroleum-based fuels.
Additionally, Panda Ethanol, Inc. is building a plant in Hereford, Texas, that will convert cattle manure to biomass for energy. Manure can also be utilized instead of petroleum-based fertilizers.
In a perfect world, corn-based ethanol plants would have access to inexpensive energy, large quantities of water - with the water utilized efficiently, transportation - including highways, rail, navigable waterways and pipelines - and be near large livestock facilities capable of utilizing the DDGS and providing ready access to manure, for fertilizer or for energy.
The Midwest would be filled with gas stations with economical E-85 fuels.
Finally, all auto manufacturers would produce vehicles that use E-85 fuels. Wouldn't it be great to see the U. S. become the world's leader in consuming petroleum-free fuels?