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Ethanol or Biodiesel?

A Systems Analysis Decision



Co Authors:

Thomas R. Stabler
Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
Canisius College
stabler@canisius.edu

Frank J. Dinan
Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry
Canisius College
dinan@canisius.edu

Abstract:

In this case study, two students have been asked to conduct a “systems analysis” study to determine whether ethanol derived from corn or biodiesel prepared from soybeans is the more energy efficient alternative fuel. The students must investigate the two systems very broadly to determine all energy inputs and outputs. When the corn-to-ethanol system turns out to be less energy efficient, the students are asked to consider the political and economic consequences of this and the role that science plays in making policy decisions. The case is designed for general chemistry courses and non-science majors’ chemistry courses.

Objectives:
  • Analyze and compare corn and soybean systems and calculate their relative efficiencies.
  • Consider the role that scientific input plays in policy decision-making processes.
Keywords: Ethanol; biodiesel; biofuels; corn; soybean; systems analysis; energy input; energy output
Topical Area: Policy issues
Educational Level: Undergraduate lower division, Undergraduate upper division
Formats: PDF
Type/Method: Dilemma/Decision
Language: English
Subject Headings: Chemistry (General)   Environmental Science   Environmental Engineering   Economics   Botany / Plant Science  
Date Posted: 06/18/08
Date Modified:
Copyright: Copyright held by the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science, University at Buffalo, State University of New York. Please see our usage guidelines, which outline our policy concerning permissible reproduction of this work.

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