Corn-based ethanol has its enemies and critics in the US and beyond, yet it remains the main source of biofuels being used here now in flex-fuel vehicles and for 10% of the gasoline in about three quarters of US retail gas stations. One country that has been producing and gassing up on more ethanol than the US is Brazil, which gets its ethanol from sugar cane. There are a few experts who say sugar could work well as an ethanol source in the US, but coming from sugar beets instead of sugar cane.
In North Dakota, agribusiness specialists formed the Green Vision Group to explore sugar beets as a feedstock for ethanol production. The group is planning to build a $20 million plant to demonstrate the viability of energy beets as an ethanol feedstock, according to The Detroit Bureau. Cole Gustafson, a professor at North Dakota State University, makes good points about the benefits of sugar cane ethanol. Gustafson is working with Green Vision on its plans for a processing center, and said sugar plants have an advantage over corn because they require one less processing step. Corn’s starches have to be converted to sugar before the conversion to alcohol. Sugar cane ethanol could possibly be more cost effective and environmentally safe than corn ethanol.