Gasohol: Does It or Doesn't It Produce Positive Net Energy?

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Science  16 Nov 1979:
Vol. 206, Issue 4420, pp. 789-795
DOI: 10.1126/science.206.4420.789


A detailed analysis of energy inputs and outputs is performed on grain-based gasohol (10 percent grain-based ethanol, 90 percent gasoline). Existing differences of opinion on the energy balance derive mainly from variations in interpretation which are several examples of inherent methodological problems in energy analysis. The result is strongly dependent on assumptions about use of crop residues for fuel and the miles-per-gallon rating of gasohol. In terms of total nonrenewable energy, gasohol is close to the energy break-even point. On the other hand, in terms of petroleum or petroleum-substitutable energy, gasohol is an unambiguous energy producer, since most energy inputs to the process can be supplied by nonpetroleum sources such as coal.