A local mag "Australian Road Rider" vol. 24 had a great article about the facts of ethanol production and use.
131,000 BTU... ahh, the taint of Pimintel.
I just got off a long thread on this, so I won't get too technical, but it looks like your article is a cut-and-paste job.
-The negative energy balance claim (takes more energy to produce ethanol than you get out of it) comes from David Pimintel, a retired professor. His writing has been discredited by several authorities worldwide- several US government agencies and research groups, an Australian research group, and the Canadian ministry of agriculture. Note that the Canadian ministry is not biased, since Canada is a corn importer, and a Canadian ethanol industry would swell corn imports to many millions of tonnes per year.
Personally, I admit ethanol from corn had a negative energy balance back in 1980, when Pimintel was in his prime. But the farming and ethanol industries have come a long way in twenty years, like, oh, every other industry
. Pimintel even lowered his 131,000 figure recently, though as a professor emeritus he has absolutely no desire to contradict his life's work.
As far as Australia is concerned, ethanol is made from both corn and sugarcane. If the corn still has a negative energy balance, the sugarcane can easily compensate.
-Ethanol facilities don't burn ethanol to make ethanol because they shouldn't, not because it violates physics. Ethanol is a motor fuel, because it's dense and high-octane. Ethanol facilities use natural gas or coal because these are not motor fuels, they're boiler fuels. They are difficult to use in vehicles, and should be saved for large, stationary plants, or at least buses. I can explain this better if anyone needs me to.
-The reason subsidies are required to produce ethanol in the US is because petroleum is subsidized. The US oil companies get billions of dollars in direct tax relief, plus indirect support. This keeps the US prices low. (US$1.48 a gallon last I checked.) Australian companies don't get this, so Australian gas is much more expensive. I imagine you're paying closer to US$1.48 a liter. Hence Australian ethanol can compete without running subsidies.
-Ethanol is corrosive to some fuel systems because gasoline allows lazy design. From its inception in 1908, Henry Ford designed the Model T to be a flex-fuel vehicle- you could switch from pure ethanol to pure gasoline in mid-tank. This is because he picked the right materials in the fuel system. So did the Indianapolis 500 teams, which ran straight ethanol from the race's inception until the late '60s. Then they specc'ed their fuel systems to handle methanol, which is way more corrosive.
Millions of flex-fuel vehicles- mostly Fords, some GMs- are driving around the US with fuel systems that can take E85 (85% ethanol, 15% gasoline). It's a no-cost feature; it's even standard on some vehicle/engine combinations. All late-model domestics, and most imports, can easily handle E10, the maximum concentration you'll find at a "standard" pump. This is because they also have to handle MTBE, which isn't that nice either, and goes up to 15% without a disclaimer. The fact that Ducati hasn't specc'ed a modern fuel system is because they haven't done their homework, not because it's some radical new technology. The Model T would run E10 without adjustment
-Straight ethanol would have higher octane; 99 MON, and over 110 RON. Most people fudge it to 103 pump octane to be on the safe side. E85 is 99 octane. Any difference with E10 is negligible; many refineries lower the octane of the 90% gasoline to compensate, a practice called "sub-octane blending." They do it because [drum roll...] it's cheaper.
The flex-fuel vehicles (at least, in the US) have compensation maps. A sensor tells the computer how much ethanol is in the blend. The computer then adjusts spark timing based on the higher octane, and drivers notice more power. Our Ducatis don't have fuel sensors, or even antiknock sensors, so no amount of octane will shift the engine maps. On paper, ethanol engines run cooler, but the Monster temperature sensor is behind the headlight (at least, mine is) where it can't pick up any difference.
-Mileage loss of E10 is 2-3%, if the computer doesn't adjust. Enough to detect in a controlled experiment, not enough to detect on the street. My odometer isn't even close to 3% accurate.
I could go on. Upshot: ethanol is no better or worse than gasoline, just different. Ideally we would retune depending on what's in the pump, but we (Ducatisti) can't. If I had bought my Ford pickup one year later, it would retune itself without even notifying me.