Readers Respond

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Ethanol response


In the past few weeks you may have noticed numerous media reports about a dubious study on the net energy balance of ethanol. The study, conducted by David Pimentel of Cornell University and Tad Patzek of the University of California-Berkeley, alleges ethanol production requires more fossil energy than the resulting ethanol fuel contains. Despite a wealth of research to the contrary, Pimentel has repeatedly made this same assertion in the past.

Pimentel's studies, which draw on outdated corn and ethanol production data, have been discredited by government agencies, public and private universities and other entities. In fact, 12 studies on ethanol's energy balance have been conducted since 1995, with nine of those studies finding ethanol actually has a positive energy balance. A 2004 study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that ethanol generates as much as 67 percent more energy than it takes to produce. It is important to note all three studies claiming ethanol takes more energy to produce than it generates were conducted by Pimentel.

David Pimentel is a professor of insect ecology at Cornell University since 1955... Pimentel has also publicly encouraged the Sierra Club to call for restrictions on U.S. immigration, saying the nation's growing population and its consumption of natural resources are the greatest threat to the environment.

Tad Patzek is an associate professor of chemical engineering at the University of California-Berkeley and was employed by Shell Oil Western E&P, Inc. and Shell Oil Development from 1983 to 1990. He is a member of the UC Oil Consortium...

Neither Pimentel nor Patzek have expertise in agronomics, ethanol, or the economics of energy.

Pimentel and Patzek are attempting to distract Americans from the importance of an 8 billion gallon renewable fuels standard being debated within the energy bill conference committee. Let's not be distracted from our goal to produce more of our own energy - we can and do produce ethanol efficiently - "and our fields are always pumping!"

Check out our website at IowaCorn.org.

- Judy Budholdt, Newell, district director, Iowa Corn Growers Association