I like the idea of “growing” our own fuel… but, I have been hit with many e-mails about how inefficient it is to get liquid fuels from corn in the form of ethanol. “OK, OK,” I said, “I will back off!” The use of corn to produce ethanol HAS resulted in a sharply higher cost of corn as a fuel… and I like corn in my Japanese fried rice! (Grin!) My big deal was that growing our own fuel would get us away from depending on foreign oil for our fuel, and make us less dependent, and therefore safer, as a country, in the world.
President Bush was practically laughed down a few years ago, when he suggested using switchgrass as a fuel source in a State of the Union address. (Now, obviously, he didn’t come up with the idea, he was merely repeating something he had heard from his energy advisors… but it was attributed to him as his “hair-brained idea.” Now, there is news that this might just be viable after all! Try a return of 343% to 700% of the energy used to produce it!
Biofuels on a Big Scale
“On paper, making biofuels from switchgrass and other perennials that need not be replanted seems like a no-brainer. Use the sun’s energy to grow the crop, and then convert it to liquid fuels to power our cars without the need for gasoline. But so far, experiments with these ‘cellulosic’ crop-based fuels have only been conducted on small scales, leaving open the question of how feasible the strategy is. Now, the first large-scale study shows that switchgrass yields more than five times the energy needed to grow, harvest, and transport the grass and convert it to ethanol. The results could propel efforts to sow millions of hectares of marginal farmland with biofuel crops. Previous studies on switchgrass plots suggested that ethanol made from the plant would yield anywhere from 343% to 700% of the energy put into growing the crop and processing it into biofuel. But these studies were based on lab-scale plots of about 5 square meters. So 6 years ago, Kenneth Vogel, a geneticist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Lincoln, Nebraska, and colleagues set out to enlist farmers for a much larger evaluation. Farmers planted switchgrass on 10 farms, each of which was between 3 and 9 hectares. They then tracked the inputs they used–diesel for farm equipment and transporting the harvested grasses, for example–as well as the amount of grass they raised over a 5-year period. After crunching the numbers, Vogel and his colleagues found that ethanol produced from switchgrass yields 540% of the energy used to grow, harvest, and process it into ethanol. Equally important, the researchers found that the switchgrass is carbon neutral, as it absorbs essentially the same amount of greenhouse gases while it’s growing as it emits when burned as fuel.”
By the way, for the record, I am ALL for hydrogen power as well! So, don’t think I am putting all my eggs in one basket! I just think that our country’s energy independence is as important a point in our overall Homeland Security as is a secure border! There are lot’s of ways to get there!