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Sorghum vs. Corn

For EPEC, it's all about sorghum... Sorghum, and more specifically, sweet sorghum, is 28 times more energy efficient than corn and thus provides EPEC with accessible and low-cost raw materials for cost effective ethanol production.

Simply put, ethanol from corn was a poor political solution to our energy issues. Currently in the U.S., virtually all ethanol is derived from corn with a very small percentage coming from other starch based grains. In 2008, more than one third of U.S. corn crop was diverted to ethanol production causing concern over global food supply. Compounding the problem, since corn is a starch, it requires a substantial amount of energy input to produce ethanol, resulting in a net energy yield of only 1.25 energy units of output for every energy unit of input.

On the other hand, ethanol from sweet sorghum is a viable and efficient economic solution. Sweet sorghum can grow on marginal land unsuitable for corn, needs substantially less water and fertilizer, is more drought tolerant, grows to maturity in less than four months – permitting multiple crops per year in certain climates. Finally, sweet sorghum is not a staple within the U.S. food supply, thus, using it for ethanol production will not cause any adverse food supply distortions. Sorghum is currently grown in 99 countries and is the fifth most widely grown crop in the world. Sweet sorghum can never be a commodity because of its inability to be stored.

Since sweet sorghum is a sugar rich plant, it requires far less energy to produce ethanol resulting in a net yield of 8 energy units of output for every energy unit input. The difference in net energy yield between ethanol from corn versus sweet sorghum is nothing short of staggering. At 1.25 to 1 versus 8 to 1 respectively, sweet sorghum is 28 times a more effective method for levering existing energy units into new energy units.

Corn Sorghum
Starch Sugar
Requires fertile soil and irrigation Grows in marginal soil with minimal irrigation
480 gallons/acre (1 harvest annually) 1,000 to 1,500 gallons/acre (2-3 cuts annually)
Needed for food supply Not Used in Food Supply
Net Energy Yield: 1.25 : 1 Net Energy Yield: 8 : 1
 

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