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Report: US Ethanol Production up 37% in Q1

BENTEK Energy, LLC, an energy markets information company, estimates that the US ethanol plant fleet has produced 1.9 billion gallons of ethanol through the first quarter of 2008. This outpaces last year’s production in the first quarter by 517 million gallons, or nearly 37%.

Average daily production through the first quarter of 2008 was approximately 21.4 million gallons per day, which compares to an average of 15.6 million gallons per day in the first quarter 2007 and an average of 17.8 million gallons per day for all of 2007.

BENTEK monitors the deliveries of natural gas from interstate pipelines to approximately 30% of all US ethanol facilities. This number is then modeled to monthly fuel ethanol output data provided by the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) to estimate a real-time daily US estimate of ethanol production based on gas inputs.

The US has approximately 134 ethanol plants in service in 2008 compared to 68 plants five years ago in 2003, with a production capacity of 7.229 million gallons per year (mgy), according to the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA). An additional 77 plans under construction or expanding could bring a potential additional capacity of 6.217 mgy onstream.

BENTEK projects that ethanol production in the US could exceed 7.7 billion gallons in 2008 if performance trends in the first quarter continue through the rest of the year. Total production of ethanol in 2007 was 6.485 billion gallons according to the RFA.

Last week, the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Prospective Plantings report forecast an 8% decline in corn acres compared to last year to 86 million acres of corn—still the second-highest acreage intention since 1949.

The March USDA report indicates approximately 79 million harvested acres. If the average trend yield of 155.5 bushels per acre is realized, corn producers would be on track to produce approximately 12.3 billion bushels in 2008—the second-highest production ever, according to the RFA.

Most look at a scenario in the year 2015 where the American farmer will produce 15 billion bushels of corn, said Renewable Fuels Association spokesperson Matt Hartwig. If the ethanol industry can produce three gallons of ethanol per bushel, that will mean using about one third of that crop to make 15 billion gallons of ethanol as mandated by the Renewable Fuel Standard in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA).



We are pretty much maxed out on using corn for ethanol. It might make more sense to take the natural gas used in making more ethanol and use it in dual fuel cars. There is a limit here and we are darn close to reaching it.


Good. And with the new Range Fuels syngas plant coming online utilizing municipal and agra industry waste, the land use fears will fade. As cellulosic moves toward the stated cost of $1.00/gallon, an $8.00 fillup will provide the Volt owner 500 mile (EV + ER) range (less electric cost.)

If government (world over) provides tax credits for purchase of first, second generation PHEVs - we might see a path to sustainable energy independence within ten years.

The Scoot

Well, I think the whole corn or grain feedstock problem for ethanol is a false dilemma. The technology to use agricultural litter is almost here, and as the price of grain and corn increases, the incentive to develop these alternate feedstocks becomes that much more relevant.


Didn't AETA get stopped trading? So essentially there is one company right now with this claim?

How much of $1/gal is hype? And how much longer until it is fully in production? I'm all for it. More alternatives the better. If there was anyway to get solar instead of typical fuels to run the process would be a step in right direction as well.

But I still think it is a huge problem for the world if to much land is utilized for fuel.


What they are saying is the manufactured COST of Range Fuel ethanol would be $1 per gallon. With markups, taxes, transportation and all we might be closer to $2 per gallon retail. That is still a bargain considering we are approaching $4 per gallon gasoline in the U.S.

I believe Range, Syntec and others can hit that target with biomass gasification. I have thought and wrote about this for years and now it is coming true. :)


Anyone have percentages on ethanol 7.7billion vs overall usages per year?

Healthy Breaze

So I'm curious how this will play out. In the last 4 years, scores of new corn-ethanol refineries have popped up across the midwest. Tax incentives played a large role. Producers have known for at least a year that corn was going dramatically up in price, and tax incentives might not last. Supposedly next year fewer acres will be planted in corn.

Vinod Khosla maintained that corn ethanol was a bridge to cellulosic ethanol. He suggested that the ethanol infrastructure and marketplace would be ramped up on corn, but then subsumed by cheaper cellulosic. The thing is, these corn ethanol refineries are mostly brand new, and how readily can they be converted to produce cellulosic, especially if syngas is the winning pathway? Will the owners convert them just was quickly to cellulosic to stay relevant? Will there be a bubble burst, and a bunch of mothballed refineries? It seemed like the integrated dairy/ethanol plant, or feedlot/ethanol plants were more efficient...anybody know if they're more efficient than the syngas pathway?


~9.1 million barrels per day of gasoline consumption in the US (if I converted properly). 42 gallons/barrel, yields 382 M gallons/day.

7.7 billion gallons/365 days = 21 M gallons/day.

21/382 is about 5.5% of total (gasoline) consumption. (if I made all the conversions right)


amazing that it has displaced so much gas usage in such a short time.. the power of capitalism!


Blame it on Bush.


I do not know what they will do with corn ethanol plants. It might have been foolish to invest in something with corn as the main input and the price of corn could rise with demand and reduce your profit margins. If you have no alternatives, the market can trap you in a bind. This is obvious to anyone who thinks about it before hand.


it probably would not be hard to switch to other feedstocks.. just add the right enzyme to break down cellulose and go at it

Ryan K

I saw a report last month on RenewableEnergyWorld that POET (IIRC, might had been Gulf) was planning on converting something like 16 of its corn ethanol plans to cellulose feedstocks, due to the high price of corn.

Ryan K

Sorry, it's Gulf that's planning the cellulose refits:

The article doesn't mention the number of plants involved.


Demand for E85 will only continue to climb. Refiners who do not retrofit corn plants will have squandered their investment. The $1.00/gallon goal is based on 100 gallons/cellulosic ton. Tax happy government will add 20-35% (in spite of "national security energy independence") plus profit and distribution.


I knew we were going to be in an energy bind around 2000. Now that the present administration has held us back 7 years from any real progress, we will have to make up for lost time going forward.


21/382 is about 5.5% of total (gasoline) consumption

Shane, this looks right on a volume basis. A gallon of ethanol contains about 2/3rds the energy in a gallon of gasoline, though. So on an energy basis (or vehicle miles travelled basis) ethanol will displace less than 4% of our gasoline this year.

The Scoot

What about butanol? I mean, is there such a thing as cellulosic butanol? Butanol has the same energy, basically, as 87 octane...

Tony Isle

The USA has more oil in the gulf than all the mideast. President Bush has tried to tap that source and Alaska only to be turned down by the enemy, our democratic congress. Some of you believe in global warming even though many top scientists do not. 130,000 years ago, our climate was the same as now only to get cold and back again without anyone burning fuel. If you still want to believe in global warming, at least let's temporarily drill for more as we find alternative sources before we end up paying $100.00 for a loaf of bread.


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