Switchgrass-based Ethanol

Science / World Mission

Here’s some encouraging news in the bio-fuel area. Researchers have found that fuel made from grass is able to provide significantly more energy for fuel than is required to grow the grass.

” Switchgrass grown for biofuel production produced 540 percent more energy than needed to grow, harvest and process it into cellulosic ethanol, according to estimates from a large on-farm study by researchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Results from the five-year study involving fields on farms in three states highlight the prairie grass’ potential as a biomass fuel source that yields significantly more energy than is consumed in production and conversion into cellulosic ethanol, said Ken Vogel, a U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service geneticist in UNL’s agronomy and horticulture department.

The study involved switchgrass fields on farms in Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota. It is the largest study to date examining the net energy output, greenhouse gas emissions, biomass yields, agricultural inputs and estimated cellulosic ethanol production from switchgrass grown and managed for biomass fuel.

‘This clearly demonstrates that switchgrass is not only energy efficient, but can be used in a renewable biofuel economy to reduce reliance of fossil fuels, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and enhance rural economies,’ Vogel said.”

This is significant because you don’t get anywhere near this kind of yield in corn based ethanol fuel. At best advocates for the corn based fuel see about 167% yield, but that number is apparently disputed with some folks claiming there is no net yield.

And of course growing grass for fuel would leave corn available for human and animal consumption. Food shortages in the developing world are being traced back to the diversion of the corn crop to fuel rather than feed.

Read the rest here.

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