Corn ethanol’s energy balance is strong, continues to improve

By Renewable Fuels Association | April 20, 2022

Today’s corn ethanol now provides nearly three times the energy used to produce it, according to a new analysis by the Renewable Fuels Association, with some biorefineries approaching a four-to-one energy ratio. This continuing improvement in energy balance reflects improved efficiencies in corn production and ethanol processing.

“Our nation’s corn farmers and ethanol biorefineries have been working harder and smarter to improve productivity, and that clearly shows in these new numbers,” said RFA Chief Economist Scott Richman. “This is an important message for policymakers and regulators who should note the progress our industry and its suppliers are making when it comes to sustainability and energy conservation, and it should set the record straight as some detractors continue to dredge up decades-old allegations.”

Richman noted that estimates of the average energy balance ratio for corn ethanol have increased sharply over time. In RFA’s previous analysis, released in March 2016, the association conservatively found the average energy balance ratio of corn ethanol was likely in the range of 2.6 to 2.8, with the top quartile of dry mill biorefineries averaging 3.2 to 3.4.