The competition is Beeting Up on Corn Ethanol
By: Alan Anderson
As politicians debate ethanol and farm subsidies in Washington, DC, the American people are starting to pay attention to new innovations that are changing the way the U.S. will do bio-fuels in the near future. One group of farmer’s in the U.S. that doesn’t receive subsidies for their crops are the Sugar Beet Farmers. Multiple universities across the nation have conducted research and have shown that the sugar beet is the one crop that can be mass produced in North America that outperform our current major ethanol feedstock, Corn.
The research done so far shows that beet ethanol production far surpasses corn in every aspect. Every unit of energy used to turn sugar to ethanol; 9.3x plus as much energy is created. Now compare that to corn at 4.3x energy it produces for every one spent. Agronomically, sugar beets will require about the same amount of rainfall as corn to produce a crop, but the beets have a deep tap root that is capable of using both water and nutrients found deeper in the soil profile, that commonly escape the roots of other primary crops grown in the region. This long tap root could also reduce salinity problems in poorly drained soils and fracture the hard pan region in the soil profile allowing for internal drainage of the soil. Growers would see a greater net return from a sugar beet crop than they would from growing corn. It would be possible to reduce the overall processing costs about 10 percent, which would mean a 7 percent increase in the return on investment.
Corn at its best can produce 425 gallons of ethanol per acre. Sugarcane runs between 650-725 gallons per acre. And one crop we haven’t discussed yet is Sugar Beet, traditional sugar beets produce between 700-750 gallons per acre. But wait, there is a new Sugar Beet on the market now, known as the Energy Sugar Beet. It produces between 795-850 gallons of ethanol per acre. The Energy Sugar Beet even out performs the EPA and DOE standards mandating crops to be considered for advanced bio-fuels meet a 50% reduction in GHG threshold. The new beet far out reached that 50% and comes in at around 70% GHG reduction and that is using traditional farm practices. But in studies, using non-traditional practices such as low-till and the use of biodiesel on the farms this number has moved to over 80% GHG reduction range.
So what they have shown here is farmers and regular Americans can be the innovators that take the U.S. into the future of fuels. Now all we need is journalist and politicians to Stop, Look and Listen and cross the tracks into future of American Progress. Remember, No subsidies are paid to Sugar Beet farmers for their crops.
Cole Gustafson, Professor and Biofuels Economist at North Dakota State University was published in the latest issue of Ethanol Producers Magazine. One comment in his article that stands out is “The energy beet industry is well established in Europe, where biofuel yields per acre are twice those of corn, reducing impacts on food production. Thus, the technology risk of producing a new advanced biofuel from energy beets is low compared with cellulosic processes. Energy beets are an ideal rotational crop in arid, small grain/oilseed rotations due to the plant’s deep tap root that seeks water and nutrients left behind by other crops. The crop requires less nitrogen fertilizer, a key contributor to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.”
What we need now is policies put in place at the highest levels of government both state and federal levels that would represent the progress of America and not the political ambitions of politicians and pundits. The need for change is closing fast and the future of our job market not to mention that of future generations needs addressed now and not further down the road.