Remember Ethanol? It's Actually Bigger Than Ever

Five years ago, ethanol — fuel that’s derived from corn — was the energy watchword.
Car companies like General Motors insisted it was the next big thing, and promised to roll out fleets of cars that could run on E85. The government was already behind it,  with subsidies for corn farmers.
A combine harvesting corn. Deutsch: John Deere...
A combine harvesting corn. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now, the hype is gone, but ethanol is actually bigger than ever, reports Dustin Dwyer at our public media project Changing Gears.
Five years ago, the government projected that by 2012, ethanol production would reach 11.2 billion gallons, and comprise 30 percent of the nation’s corn supply.
In 2011, the actual numbers were 13.9 billion gallons, and 40 percent of the corn supply, Dwyer says.
(Listen to an interview I did about ethanol with Here and Now, the public radio program.)
One single refinery, Carbon Green Bioenergy, outside Lake Odessa, Mich., helps tell the story. “This was built as a 40 million plant,” says the owner, Mitch Miller. “We’re running at 50 million gallons a year. So, we have not reduced capacity at all.”
The demand, Dwyer reports, isn’t because of E85.
It’s because conventional gasoline contains 10 percent ethanol. Last year, for the first time, more corn was used to produce ethanol than as livestock feed. Of course, livestock farmers aren’t happy, since their cost for feed has gone up.


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