Become a Member: Get Ad-Free Access to All Our Content


Politicians and many businessmen are pushing renewable fuels like they’ve never pushed before. Typical gasoline-powered internal combustion engines can be converted to run on ethanol, more appropriately labeled as E85. The concept is novel – grow the fuel for the engines in your cars; and grow it again. 

Issues have arisen, however. Greenhouse gases are far from nonexistent. Power is plentiful, but economy falters. Then there’s the question of availability: corn grows all over America, but the fuel made from corn hasn’t yet stretched to every gas station in America. Here are the Numbers that’ll help you understand the story of ethanol.
13,100,000,000 – bushels of corn grown on 85,000,000 acres of American soil last year
22 – percentage of that corn used to make ethanol
7,000,000,000 – total gallons of ethanol produced for consumption in 2007
10 – total percentage of corn that ended up as surplus
15,000,000,000 – total gallons of ethanol expected to be produced in 2015
5.50 – cost, in USD, of a bushel of corn; twice the 2005 price
11 – extra cost, in U.S. cents, of a gallon of milk produced by corn-fed cows as a result of the higher corn cost
150 – approximate bushels of corn per acre grown by American farmers
30 – approximate bushels of corn per acre grown by farmers in developing parts of the globe
15 – percentage growth in the cost of regular gasoline in the current market were it not for ethanol output, as estimated by Merril Lynch’s chief commodity analyst