NCGA hosts renewable fuels energy debate

By | October 01, 2005
Recently, two California professors stirred up the biodiesel industry by releasing a study in March that said biodiesel production using soybeans required 27 percent more fossil energy than the biodiesel produced.

Cornell University's David Pimentel and Tad Patzek of the University of California-Berkeley delivered similar accusations to the ethanol industry, which counters the argument by saying Pimentel's research is outdated and grossly inaccurate. In an attempt to settle the issue, the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) hosted a debate in which Patzek, a chemical engineering professor, and Pimentel, an entomologist, faced off against Bruce Dale, a chemical engineering and material science professor at Michigan State University, and John Sheehan, senior engineer at NREL. The group met Aug. 23 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

According to Dale and Sheehan, Pimentel and Patzek continuously inflate the energy inputs of farming and fuel production in their studies. "Their estimates of fossil inputs for farm production are twice as high as those estimated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and their grain-processing input estimate is 40 percent higher," Sheehan said.

In the end, both sides of the debate agreed that the United States does need to find an alternative to importing foreign oil. "Our situation is more serious than you think," Patzek said of the country's increasing energy consumption. "We have to start by cutting down on fossil fuels."
To view the presentations shown at the event or to hear the entire debate, visit
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