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Ethanol or Biodiesel?

A Systems Analysis Decision


Author(s)

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 Areas

Policy issues

Educational Level

Undergraduate lower division, Undergraduate upper division

Format

PDF

Type / Methods

Dilemma/Decision

Language

English

Subject Headings

Chemistry (General)  |   Environmental Science  |   Environmental Engineering  |   Economics  |   Botany / Plant Science  |  


Date Posted

06/18/08

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