Do We Really Need To Burn Corn So We Can Drive 1/3 Less Miles To The Gallon?

by | Apr 23, 2019 |

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Biofuels, primarily ethanol in gasoline, provides 5% of our current energy use. Misguided environmental zealots believe it represents an ideal short-term solution for replacing fossil fuels for transportation and on-site energy generation. They argue that, because biofuels come from plants, they are natural, ‘green’ and nonpolluting. They claim that, in contrast to fossil fuels, biofuels are renewable and sustainable because they can be regrown every year.

Once one wakes up to reality, however, all of these arguments fail. The major losers in this current trend controlled by government regulation, which obviously benefits farmers who are suffering very low grain prices, is the public at large. Biofuels raise the price of transportation and our food concurrently. 

Here are some of the reasons why biofuels are not the answer to what some see as our energy problems (we drill down on each issue after this list):

1 – Numerous studies have proved that biofuels consume more energy than they produce.

2 – Biofuel production is extremely land intensive.

3 – Biofuels cost more than gasoline.

4 – Most cars and trucks can’t function using pure ethanol as fuel.

5 – Biofuel production competes with food production.

6 – Biofuel production and combustion creates more CO2 emissions than fossil fuels (though that should not matter). 

1 – David Pimental, professor emeritus of entomology at Cornell University, documented long ago that biofuels, primarily ethanol, consume more energy in their production than they produce. Pimental and others estimated that corn from an acre of land produces between 330 and 450 gallons of ethanol. As a gallon of ethanol only has 63% of the energy content of gasoline, 400 gallons of ethanol per acre is equivalent to about 250 gallons of gasoline. One has to account for the fossil fuels required to produce the energy needed to run the farm equipment used to plant, tend and harvest the corn, of course.  And, after harvesting, processing steps which include fermentation and distillation also require fossil fuels. The arithmetic shown in the original research articles calculates that 100,000 BTU of energy are required to produce a gallon of ethanol, which in turn will provide only 77,000 BTU. Clearly it makes no economic sense. 

2 – It takes a huge amount of our land to produce ethanol. We have about 320 million farmable acres in the conterminous 48 states. While it varies from year to year, we tend to use about 90 million of those acres to produce corn, and 40% of that corn goes to produce ethanol. That works out to about 10% of our farm land to produce an uneconomical fuel.

Replacing all currently used gasoline, 140 billion gallons, and diesel fuel, 143 billion gallons, would require 20 times the amount of ethanol that is being produced today. We would need 720 million acres of land to achieve this. Are you laughing yet?

3 – Biofuels cost more than gasoline, often much more. Ethanol is the cheapest biofuel available, and its disadvantage to gasoline is primarily its feed stock, which is corn. Its processing and transport costs are not dissimilar to that of petroleum. With corn around $4.00 a bushel, the feedstock cost of ethanol is about $1.60 per gallon.  However, it takes 1.5 gallons of ethanol to produce the same energy as a gallon of gasoline, which is to say, the same miles driven. This means that it costs $2.40 to produce an amount of ethanol that would create the same energy as a gallon of gasoline. 

The current cost for a barrel of oil (equal to 42 gallons) is $60 (it can vary by the day) leading to a feedstock cost of about $1.44.  After calculating that the barrel produces 19 gallons of gasoline and 12 gallons of fuel oil, the feedstock price comes to about $1.62, considerably less than that of ethanol. This price does not take into effect the extra costs to taxpayers for the subsidies granted to ethanol production, and in some cases, farm subsidies. Counting these hidden costs, the price of ethanol is easily twice that of gasoline. In either case, what you pay at the pump is usually considerably more due to taxes.

If you really want your blood to boil, consider that during the Obama Administration the President decreed that military transportation take advantage of biofuels in ships and airplanes. The early implementation of this order proved an economic as well as practical disaster.

4 – Ethanol is added to gasoline to improve performance. Although there is no problem with the current 10% ethanol in gasoline, efforts to increase that amount to 15% is being greeted with great resistance from the Automobile Association of America, which states that such a level will seriously overheat engines and damage many engine components, such as fuel pumps. Most cars and trucks can’t function at all using pure ethanol.

5 – Biofuel production competes with food production. Every acre of land now used for biofuel production was formerly used for food production, mainly as feed for livestock and poultry. Over 40% of US corn production has made the switch from food to fuel since 2005. Other crops including oats, barley, sorghum, wheat and hay have seen their acreage decrease as well in order to produce biofuel. This increases the prices of all these grains. Farmers are making these conversions away from food production because government subsidies promote ethanol, and the public pays those subsidies.

6 – While it should not matter (since man-made carbon dioxide (CO2) is almost certainly not a significant contributor to climate change), biofuel production and subsequent combustion has been shown to produce more CO2 emissions than gasoline alone. Biofuels are hydrocarbons, similar to the molecules found in gasoline which produce CO2 upon combustion. However, before getting to the ethanol stage, the sugars and starches in corn have to be fermented, which produces additional CO2. 

We should all appreciate our farmers for providing us with the most inexpensive and healthiest foods on our planet. The vagaries of weather and world grain production provide them with a roller coaster of good and bad years. We should all want to see them provided with a safety net to keep them going under the worst circumstances.  But having a safety net involving a nonsensical plan to make fuel from corn is clearly not the answer.

NOTE: Portions of this article have been excerpted with permission of the publisher and author of the 2018 book ‘The Mythology of Global Warming’ by Bruce Bunker PhD, published by Moonshine Cove. The authors recommend this book as an excellent source of information on the climate change debate.


Dr. Jay Lehr is a Senior Policy Analyst with the International Climate Science Coalition and former Science Director of The Heartland Institute. He is an internationally renowned scientist, author, and speaker who has testified before Congress on dozens of occasions on environmental issues and consulted with nearly every agency of the national government and many foreign countries. After graduating from Princeton University at the age of 20 with a degree in Geological Engineering, he received the nation’s first Ph.D. in Groundwater Hydrology from the University of Arizona. He later became executive director of the National Association of Groundwater Scientists and Engineers.

Tom Harris is Executive Director of the Ottawa, Canada-based International Climate Science Coalition, and a policy advisor to The Heartland Institute. He has 40 years experience as a mechanical engineer/project manager, science and technology communications professional, technical trainer, and S&T advisor to a former Opposition Senior Environment Critic in Canada’s Parliament.

Use the code ‘OUTLOUD’ and save 15%
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Disclaimer: The information contained in this website is for educational, general information, and entertainment purposes only and is never intended to constitute medical or legal advice or to replace the personalized care of a primary care practitioner or legal expert.

While we endeavor to keep this information up to date and correct, the information provided by America Out Loud, its website(s), and any properties (including its radio shows and podcasts) makes no representations, or warranties of any kind, expressed, or implied, about the completeness, accuracy, reliability, suitability, or availability with respect to its website(s) or the information, products, services or related graphics and images contained on the website(s) for any purpose.

The opinions expressed on the website(s), and the opinions expressed on the radio shows and podcasts, are the opinions of the show hosts and do not necessarily represent the opinions, beliefs, or policies of anyone or any entity we may endorse. Any reliance you place on such information is therefore strictly at your own risk.

At no time, nor in any event, will we be liable for any loss, or damage, including without limitation, indirect or consequential loss of data or profits arising out of, in an association of, or connection with the use of this website.

Through this website, users can link to other websites that may be listed. Those websites are not under the control of America Out Loud or its brands. We have no control over the nature, content, or availability of those sites. America Out Loud has no control over what the sites do with the information they collect. The inclusion of any links does not necessarily imply a recommendation, nor does it endorse the views expressed with or by them.

Every effort is made to keep the website up and running smoothly. However, America Out Loud takes no responsibility for, nor are we, and will not be liable for being temporarily unavailable due to technical difficulties beyond our control. America Out Loud does not sell, trade, nor market email addresses or other personal data.

A Crime’s a Crime! What Makes a Hate Crime so Special? 

A Crime’s a Crime! What Makes a Hate Crime so Special? 

Buffalo and NY State police authorities knew of the teen’s derangement and made some early efforts to corral him, but he still got loose. It’s they who should be held responsible, not Tucker Carlson. Mass shootings have become a common recurrence, it seems. This time last year, we experienced a similar number of mass shootings, on average ten per week. 2021 ended with 693 mass shootings, and there were 417 in 2019. What’s happened? 

As Bad as You Think the Economy Is Right Now, It’s Actually Worse Than That

As Bad as You Think the Economy Is Right Now, It’s Actually Worse Than That

Mortgage applications to purchase a home dropped 12% on a weekly basis and are down 15% compared with the same week one year ago. The housing bubble will not survive without low interest rates. Neither will the stock market bubble. Fed Chair Jerome Powell told a Wall Street Journal conference that the U.S. central bank will “have to consider moving more aggressively”…

Race-Baiting Is the Name, and Gun-Grabbing Is the Game

Race-Baiting Is the Name, and Gun-Grabbing Is the Game

Listening to Governor Hochul will leave an outsider to believe that Buffalo, NY, is filled with hatred and a place where there is the extremism of white people against black people, which is far from the truth. There should be crimes against criminal politicians who use isolated tragedies to advance their political platforms that feed into their nefarious agendas…

The Power to Shape the Narrative is the Power to Control the Outcome

The Power to Shape the Narrative is the Power to Control the Outcome

Setting up the “Disinformation Board” and rolling it out under the DHS moved the “Overton Window” of conceivable action closer to the Marxist ideal of information control. While they’d have liked to “legitimize” their influence on media companies with edicts from a DHS Board, the ideological alignment of the major media companies is already working steadily to undermine…

The Mastery of Projective Identification

The Mastery of Projective Identification

Just listen to Biden gloating that his administration is very successful. Is Biden not the perfect example? All that is going wrong under his watch – although Democrats are the majority in the House and Senate and the Presidency – Joe Biden blames citizen Trump, Putin, or any ‘other’ entity but NOT himself…

Pennsylvania Politics Takes a Surprising Turn 

Pennsylvania Politics Takes a Surprising Turn 

Even more shocking is that McCormick and Oz came in paying about $200 per vote received, with Barnette averaging $16 per vote, and she is almost within five percent of the vote with the other two. t was certainly the race of the decade with some unexpected turns. Other upsets include Senator Doug Mastriano winning the gubernatorial race upsetting…

Exposing Russia as a Military Fraud, Is China Next?

Exposing Russia as a Military Fraud, Is China Next?

If we had looked closely in those intervening years, we could have seen the clues of their demise. Many in my field (CE/CI) did, but the world had changed. Politicians facing the prospective loss of political control through fear-mongering of something ⏤ Russia then and China now ⏤ limited any real responses that could have achieved a safe world with Russia in it…

Take a Look at the Positive Side of Anarchy

Take a Look at the Positive Side of Anarchy

The only way to achieve liberty and peace is to restore law and order. And the only way to restore law and order is to literally crush the forces of evil. When that begins to happen, we do actually see the positive side of tyranny and anarchy. Conflict is a bedfellow of oppression. Therefore we must end the conflict and, in doing so, end the tyranny. Here’s the positive side of this war…

It’s a LONG-HAUL with COVID-19

It’s a LONG-HAUL with COVID-19

The context is that about 50% of those hospitalized with COVID-19 develop post-COVID symptoms. Severe outpatients also are affected. Characteristic symptoms include headache, hearing loss, tinnitus, loss of olfactory function, sleep disturbance, muscle aches, weakness, fatigue, and chest or abdominal pain…

America Out Loud 6 years

Celebrating 6 incredible years fighting to restore liberty and justice to our beloved America.

Your Source for Free Speech, Talk Radio, Podcasts, and News.


Here we take on the challenges of our generation so that we can preserve future generations. Please consider making a contribution in the fight for liberty!


The APPS are free; the mission is priceless!

Free APP

Podcast Networks

Apple Podcasts
Google Podcasts

Subscribe and Listen on Your Favorite APP

Our Columnists and Show Hosts

Truth For Health

Apple Podcasts

COVID Solution Summit

Apple Podcasts

Evacuating Americans & fully-vetted Afghan's at Risk - Help Us!

Apple Podcasts

Empowering and mentoring conservative trailblazers from Generation Z to win!

Apple Podcasts

Turning Point Action is Recruiting Precinct Chairs - Become a Grassroots Warrior Today!

Apple Podcasts

Please join us to protect the Supreme Court:
Sign the Petition!

Apple Podcasts

The LATINO USA EXIT from the Democrat Party, click for details...

Apple Podcasts

Fighting corporate censorship and ensuring voter integrity...

Apple Podcasts

Support wounded and fallen police officers. The Wounded Blue.

Wounded Blue
Share via
Copy link