Friday, June 17, 2005 - Ontario pledges millions for ethanol

Oh the idiocy! - Ontario pledges millions for ethanol

Here we have a province that is in grave danger of running out of electric power, yet the province now plans to subsidize the construction of new ethanol plants. You may be wondering why this should raise a red flag. "Surely this is a good source of energy that we can produce locally?" you might naturally ask.

The trouble is for the full production cycle - from growing the corn, to processing the corn into liquid fuel - takes a lot more energy than ends up being available for transportation purposes in the end product. Here are some articles that explain:

Science Article

Health & Energy Article

Here is an excerpt:

Adding up the energy costs of corn production and its conversion into ethanol, 131,000 BTUs are needed to make one gallon of ethanol. One gallon of ethanol has an energy value of only 77,000 BTUS. Thus, 70 percent more energy is required to produce ethanol than the energy that actually is in it. Every time you make one gallon of ethanol, there is a net energy loss of 54,000 BTUs.

So, ethanol plants are the last thing Ontario needs. The energy used will be:

1. Motor fuel purchased from outside the Province to run the corn farms and move the corn to the processing plant.
2. Energy to run the processing plant - either:
- Natural gas imported into the Province - This uses up resources that will be in short supply - both gas, and gas pipeline capacity
- Electricity from the overall grid - if there is any left
- Electricity co-generated from refineries, chemical plants - isn't this a source being counted upon to help close those dirty old coal-powered generating stations?

Let's do the math:

The plan is to produce an additional 700 million liters a year.

At 131,000 BTUs a gallon - or about 34,210 BTU / litre - this will require 29,347 billion BTU a year.

This converts to 7,018,281 Megawatt Hours a year

With 8760 hours in a year, this will require the equivalent of an 801 MW power plant!

Surely it is better to let other jurisdictions subsidize the production of ethanol - and buy the stuff as cheaply as possible.

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