Everyday I do the NYT crossword puzzle – a great source for factoids like clue 57 across. After completing today’s puzzle, I started thinking – just how much corn is that and how much land is needed to grow it?

In 2018, the 142.86 billion gallons of finished motor gasoline consumed in the United States contained about 14.38 billion gallons of fuel ethanol, equal to about 10% of the total volume.

One bushel of corn produces about 2.8 gallons of ethanol. So, 5.135.714.285 bushels.

One acre of land yields about 168 bushels of corn. So, 30.569.727 acres or an area larger than Pennsylvania.

The current 10% mix sold in the United States is called E10. Other countries, Brazil for example, use E25 (25% ethanol). If we adjust our figures for E25 production, an area larger than Arizona would be needed to grow the corn. (Note: I have not accounted for the inefficiency cost of a higher ethanol blend. Land use would actually be greater assuming that American driving habits remains constant.)

That is a lot of corn. What do you think about the use of ethanol in fuel? Would a change to E25 be feasible and/or sustainable? Leave a comment.

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