The ethanol industry was encouraged by results of recent studies on how much energy it takes to produce ethanol compared to how much energy you get from burning it. North Dakota State University Biofuels Economist Cole Gustafson says that two studies, one released last week by USDA, shows a greater energy output than what is needed to produce the ethanol. He says the ratio is about 1.3 to 1.4 energy produced relative to the energy going into making it. But Gustafson says the positive results may not be sustainable.
"The way we've accomplished that in the past couple of years is because farmers have reduced energy in their crop production, primarily from reduced fertilizer applications," Gustafson said. "The reason that farmers have reduced a lot of that energy input is because of the high fertilizer prices they've experienced. That begs the question are producers going to be able to maintain that into the future."
Gustafson says if fertilizer prices come down and farmers use more fertilizer, the energy efficiency of biofuels will decline.