In this day and age of potentially utilizing ethanol in everyday life, it's becoming more and more common to learn of companies that buy corn for alternative fuel use. With the 2006 State of the Union Address, President Bush declared that ethanol use and production should become practical and competitive within six years. It's well on its way.
What is Ethanol?
Ethanol is a manufactured fuel occurring as the result of the distillation process of corn. Plants are popping up across the United States in which newer and more advanced technology is being used to convert corn crops into usable fuel.
The consideration of ethanol as an alternative fuel was first made in 1826 by Samuel Morey. Experimenting with internal combustion engines, Morey tinkered with one that utilized ethanol as its fuel source. However, other sources of energy including steam and oil overshadowed it.
Today, U.S. ethanol production and usage has grown drastically. There were 115 plants operating in 19 states in 2007. These plants produced 38 percent more gallons of ethanol than had been manufactured before. By 2009, many more plants are expected, and production is expected to exceed 12 billion gallons, much more than the seven billion produced in 2007.
Currently Being Researched
In a report released in July 2006, the U.S. Department of Energy has issued a research and production mandate with high expectations by the year 2013. Having invested in various forms of research, there is much to be learned concerning enzymatic, thermochemical, acid hydrolysis, hybrid hydrolysis/enzymatic and various other methods of converting corn to fuel. In 2007, $150 million was allocated for this research.
Companies That Buy Corn for Alternative Fuel Use
This industry is growing by leaps and bounds. The Renewable Fuels Association has identified 78 ethanol-producing plants as being currently under construction within the United States. That doesn't include the plants in production stages in Canada and other parts of the world. The industry has already created nearly 155,000 jobs with increases in household incomes by $5.7 billion. Reports indicate that the industry has also contributed much in the lines of tax revenues on all government levels. The amount estimated is nearly $3.5 billion.
Many of these plants are being located in rural, agricultural areas. This way they're close to the source. They develop relationships with local farming operations in order to contract their corn harvests for conversion to ethanol at their plants.
Challenges Facing Ethanol Plants
Many experts challenge the concept of the viability of ethanol as a practical alternative fuel. For instance, David Pimentel, a Cornell University agricultural expert, has reported that his findings are that ethanol is a bad risk, ultimately. He says that it takes about 70 percent more energy to produce ethanol than the ethanol produced actually contains. He says, "Every time you make one gallon of ethanol, there is a net energy loss of 54,000 BTU."
Additionally, research indicates that it would take nearly 11 acres of corn crops to fuel a purely ethanol-powered car to travel 10,000 miles in one year. These 11 acres of cropland could typically feed seven Americans. Furthermore, it is reported that it would consume 97 percent of the U.S. land area to fuel automobiles for the entire United States for one entire year. The argument is that it's not worth the sacrifice of good cropland worthy of growing a portion of the nation's food sources.
With the initiatives passed by the federal government and the number of ethanol plants being built across the country, it is certain that an expanded use of ethanol is definitely in the future. More and more vehicles are being engineered to be E-85 cars. Most vehicles in current production will run on a 10-percent ethanol-based gasoline mixture.
While the production of ethanol needs to become more efficient, the growth of companies that buy corn for alternative fuel use is definitely on the rise. Look for practical new ways to use this alternative fuel in our everyday lives in the future.