Understanding the reductions in US corn ethanol production costs: An experience curve approach
The US is currently the world's largest ethanol producer. An increasing percentage is used as transportation fuel, but debates continue on its costs competitiveness and energy balance. In this study, technological development of ethanol production and resulting cost reductions are investigated by using the experience curve approach, scrutinizing costs of dry grind ethanol production over the timeframe 1980-2005. Cost reductions are differentiated between feedstock (corn) production and industrial (ethanol) processing. Corn production costs in the US have declined by 62% over 30 years, down to 100$2005/tonne in 2005, while corn production volumes almost doubled since 1975. A progress ratio (PR) of 0.55 is calculated indicating a 45% cost decline over each doubling in cumulative production. Higher corn yields and increasing farm sizes are the most important drivers behind this cost decline. Industrial processing costs of ethanol have declined by 45% since 1983, to below 130$2005/m3 in 2005 (excluding costs for corn and capital), equivalent to a PR of 0.87. Total ethanol production costs (including capital and net corn costs) have declined approximately 60% from 800$2005/m3 in the early 1980s, to 300$2005/m3 in 2005. Higher ethanol yields, lower energy use and the replacement of beverage alcohol-based production technologies have mostly contributed to this substantial cost decline. In addition, the average size of dry grind ethanol plants increased by 235% since 1990. For the future it is estimated that solely due to technological learning, production costs of ethanol may decline 28-44%, though this excludes effects of the current rising corn and fossil fuel costs. It is also concluded that experience curves are a valuable tool to describe both past and potential future cost reductions in US corn-based ethanol production.
If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.
References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Marland, G. & Turhollow, A.F., 1991. "CO2 emissions from the production and combustion of fuel ethanol from corn," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 16(11), pages 1307-1316.
- Shapouri, Hosein & Duffield, James A. & Graboski, Michael S., 1995. "Estimating the Net Energy Balance of Corn Ethanol," Agricultural Economics Reports 34005, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
- Shapouri, Hosein & Duffield, James A. & Wang, Michael Q., 2002. "The Energy Balance of Corn Ethanol: An Update," Agricultural Economics Reports 34075, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
- Tiffany, Douglas G. & Eidman, Vernon R., 2003. "Factors Associated With Success Of Fuel Ethanol Producers," Staff Papers 14155, University of Minnesota, Department of Applied Economics.
- McDonald, Alan & Schrattenholzer, Leo, 2001. "Learning rates for energy technologies," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 29(4), pages 255-261, March.
- Grubler, Arnulf & Nakicenovic, Nebojsa & Victor, David G., 1999. "Dynamics of energy technologies and global change," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 27(5), pages 247-280, May.
When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:enepol:v:37:y:2009:i:1:p:190-203. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Shamier, Wendy)
If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.
If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.
If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.
Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.