Ethanol takes more energy to produce than it contributes.
FACT: In June 2004, the U.S. Department of Agriculture updated its 2002 analysis of the issue and determined that the net energy balance of ethanol production is 1.67 to 1. For every 100 BTUs of energy used to make ethanol, 167 BTUs of ethanol is produced. In 2002, USDA had concluded that the ratio was 1.35 to 1. The USDA findings have been confirmed by additional studies conducted by the University of Nebraska and Argonne National Laboratory.
These figures take into account the energy required to plant, grow and harvest the corn—as well as the energy required to manufacture and distribute the ethanol.
The net energy balance of ethanol production continues to improve because ethanol production is becoming more efficient. For example, one bushel of corn now yields 2.8 gallons of ethanol—up from 2.5 gallons just a few years ago.