Efficiency in Midwest US corn ethanol plants: A plant survey

Richard K. Perrin, Nickolas F. Fretes, Juan Pablo Sesmero

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Continuation of policy support for the US corn ethanol industry is being debated due to doubts about the greenhouse gas effects of the industry and the effects of the industry on food prices. Yet there is no publicly available data on the economic and technical performance of the current generation of plants, which constitute the overwhelming majority of the industry. This study helps to fill that gap. Seven recently constructed ethanol plants in seven Midwest US states provided details on input requirements and operating costs during 2006 and 2007. Results show that technical performance is substantially better than current estimates available in the literature. Average net operating returns exceeded capital costs during the survey period, but price changes by mid-2008 reduced these margins to near zero. While the economic performance of the industry is currently viable, this study demonstrates that it can be threatened by current price trends, and certainly would be in the absence of current subsidies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1309-1316
Number of pages8
JournalEnergy Policy
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2009


  • Corn ethanol efficiency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Energy(all)
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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