In this paper, a comprehensive study on corn-based ethanol in a Canadian context is conducted, which uses the most reliable and up to date data, considers realistic assumptions, and applies sound methodology to provide a basis for developing future scenarios for corn-based ethanol and compared the results with the conventional fuel, such as gasoline. It is estimated that the net energy value (NEV), defined as the energy content of a liter of ethanol minus the total energy use to produce a liter of ethanol, is 9.6 MJ L−1 (LHV), when co-products energy credits are not considered. In addition, a comparison of life cycle energy use for corn-based ethanol and gasoline reveals that the life cycle energy use to produce a liter of ethanol is considerably less than the life cycle energy use to produce a liter of gasoline. Furthermore, a comparison of life cycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for corn-based ethanol and gasoline reveals that the life cycle GHG emissions released per liter of ethanol produced is an order of magnitude lesser than the life cycle GHG emissions released per liter of gasoline produced, when GHG emissions displaced by ethanol co-products are considered in the estimation. Finally, a comparison of our results in terms of net fossil fuel input, net fossil fuel ratio and GHG emissions is carried out with the results obtained from the ERG biofuel analysis meta-model (EBAMM) to reflect both Canadian and US perspectives. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.