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switchgrass.jpg In the rush to find alternate sources of fuel so as to wean ourselves off of deadly fossil fuels, much has been made of the potential of corn based ethanol. Sadly, most of that is total bullshit.

Did you know that it takes one gallon of gas (that nasty fossil fuel that we are trying to get rid of) to make 1.3 gallons of ethanol? No? Didn’t think so.

Additionally corn requires large doses of herbicide and nitrogen fertilizer, which can cause more soil erosion than any other crop. So why then are we building all of those corn-processing plants? More importantly, why are we allowing the starving people of the world to go hungry so that we can make this inefficient fuel?

Well my friends, once again, it is all about money. We are making corn based ethanol because corn is easy to grow, adapts well to our climate and many of the corporate entities engaged in this process including, Archer Daniels Midland and Cargill have large fields of guess what?

While most with a knowledge of biofuels willingly admit that the future is cellulosic ethanol, made from such feedstock as switch grass and wood chips, both of these processes are in the early testing and experimentation stages and will require significant outlays of capitol to be made a reality. Whereas corn, inefficient that it is, is ready to go and for cheap.

As biofuels go, there are many better alternatives to corn.

Sugar is a better alternative. But with the exception of Hawaii, there are not a lot of areas in the United States capable of growing this product in any great amounts. Regardless, it is worth noting that eight gallons of biofuels can be made from one gallon of petroleum.

Even soybeans are better than corn, though not by much. Soybeans deliver 2.5 gallons of biofuels per gallon of gas used in the manufacturing process.

But as I said earlier, the future of biofuels belongs to prairie grasses, algae and cornstalks.

In the article which follows, we will take a look at some of the new research on the topic which shows that prairie grasses grown using only moderate amounts of fertilizer on marginal land can produce significant amounts of ethanol, on average 300 gallons per acre of switch grass used.



Related Story: National Geographic “Green Dreams”

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