Ethanol from corn: Clean renewable fuel for the future, or drain on our resources and pockets?

Tad W. Patzek*, S. M. Anti, R. Campos, K. W. Ha, J. Lee, B. Li, J. Padnick, S. A. Yee

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


It is shown here that one burns 1 gallon of gasoline equivalent in fossil fuels to produce 1 gallon of gasoline equivalent as ethanol from corn. When this corn ethanol is burned as a gasoline additive or fuel, its use amounts to burning the same amount of fuel twice to drive a car once. Therefore, the fuel efficiency of those cars that burn corn ethanol is halved. The widespread use of corn ethanol will cause manifold damage to air, surface water, soil and aquifers. The overall energy balance of corn conversion to ethanol demonstrates that 65% of the input energy is lost during the conversion. Carbon dioxide sequestration by corn is nullified when corn ethanol is burned, and there will be additional carbon dioxide, nitrous oxides, and sulfur oxide emissions from the fossil fuels used to produce the ethanol.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)319-336
Number of pages18
JournalEnvironment, Development and Sustainability
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Carbon dioxide
  • Corn
  • Energy balance
  • Ethanol
  • Fuel
  • Nitrate
  • Oxygenate
  • Pollution
  • Sequestration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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