Information, observations, and analysis from the James River valley on the Northern Plains-----
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Ethanol has been regarded as the savior of the farm economy. It has two advantages. It can provide alternative fuel sources to imported oil. And it is a renewable fuel which can utilize surplus farm production capacity.
A troubling aspect of ethanol and bio-diesel, however, are seldom given mention in the farm states. What is troubling is the amount of energy it takes to convert grain and beans into fuel. Some critics suggest that amount of energy used to create ethanol and bio-diesel compounds our dependence on foreign oil and utilizes fuels that would otherwise be used for transportation and home heating.
There is a problem with how much energy outside that contained in corn and beans themselves it takes to make a gallon of fuel. This question is a nagging one circulating around Congress. Some colleges of agriculture have suggested that the question could be solved by powering the conversion into ethanol with ethanol, thereby not drawing heavily on other forms of energy in the manufacture of grain-based fuels. Farm belt legislators see the matter as one of growing significant in the development of energy policy.