A couple of weeks ago, I emailed Jerry Franz, father of Northfield resident and St. Olaf alumnus Scott Franz, and asked him to read through our blog posts on the proposed ethanol plant. Jerry owns a family farm in in Friesland, WI, and is one of six farmers who raised $28M to build an ethanol plant of which he is currently a Director. Jerry is also past Director of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture Board and many other ag-related organizations. Following is his response:
Where to begin! Pimental is so out-of-date it is pathetic. He has been saying the same thing for twenty years. He was almost right in 1980! His sidekick formerly worked for Shell Oil.
As one example, it takes less than 20% as much electricity now per gallon than it did in 1980. His study and one other claim a negative energy balance. About fifteen studies claim a positive energy balance with an average of about 26% gain. The highest is 67% gain, by USDA. The biggest problem with Pimental is he assumes the whole corn kernel is consumed by ethanol fermentation when in fact only one-third is. One third of the kernel goes off as Carbon Dioxide (which the next crop reabsorbs) Some fermentation plants capture the CO2 for bottling, etc., one-third of the kernel passes through the fermentation and is sold to livestock feeders. It is called Distillers Dried Grain with solubles, an excellent high protein feed esp. for ruminant animals because it by-passes the rumin which makes it a more efficient source of protein!
Pimental’s other major error is in assuming that all corn is irrigated so he includes a huge energy cost for pumping water. In fact, probably less than 20% of the US corn crop is irrigated.
Ethanol reduces carbon monoxide, reduces benzene, a carcinogen, and using ethanol blends reduce green house gases.(this all according to EPA) Ethanol is not the perfect fuel but it sure beats buying from the Arabs and it is a great boost to rural economies and small rural towns.
Come to Friesland anytime for a tour and see for yourself how clean and efficient the process is.
Now, lest anyone forget to be civil in any replies or questions, please know that I will make Jerry aware of this post so he can make comments himself if he’s so inclined.