ethanol from corn

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Corn Ethanol

In the United States, corn ethanol is most popular and heavily subsidized type of biofuel. It is produced from corn through a process of industrial fermentation, chemical processing and distillation. It is commonly used as fuel for E85 flex-fuel vehicles, that is, a mixture of up to 85% denatured fuel ethanol and gasoline. As a renewable type of energy, corn ethanol is, in theory, green. But the reality is that it is heavily criticized for its low net energy output, competition with food crops and expanding monocultures into the wilderness.

Even Al Gore has recognized that supporting corn ethanol in the United States was a mistaken policy. Gore made the statement on the verge of the renewal of tax credits at the end of 2010. He admitted he supported corn biofuel policies in order to get elected but now acknowledges that extracting sugar from corn is very energy inefficient.

But the corn-based industry has grown strong in America. According to a Goldman Sachs report, in 2010, 41 per cent of U.S. crop production will go to making ethanol.

The UK-based environmental organization Friends of the Earth has also made anti-corn ethanol statements, going further to say that it actually produces more greenhouse gases than gasoline. All this debate over the environmental viability of corn ethanol and the subsidies policies that keep the industry going strong has shifted public perception on this type of biofuel, and not in a positive way.