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Grass Makes Better Ethanol than Corn Does (interesting if true)
SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN ^ | 1/11/2008 | David Biello

Posted on 01/11/2008 8:07:03 AM PST by tobyhill

Farmers in Nebraska and the Dakotas brought the U.S. closer to becoming a biofuel economy, planting huge tracts of land for the first time with switchgrass—a native North American perennial grass (Panicum virgatum) that often grows on the borders of cropland naturally—and proving that it can deliver more than five times more energy than it takes to grow it.

Working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the farmers tracked the seed used to establish the plant, fertilizer used to boost its growth, fuel used to farm it, overall rainfall and the amount of grass ultimately harvested for five years on fields ranging from seven to 23 acres in size (three to nine hectares).

Once established, the fields yielded from 5.2 to 11.1 metric tons of grass bales per hectare, depending on rainfall, says USDA plant scientist Ken Vogel. "It fluctuates with the timing of the precipitation,'' he says. "Switchgrass needs most of its moisture in spring and midsummer. If you get fall rains, it's not going to do that year's crops much good."

But yields from a grass that only needs to be planted once would deliver an average of 13.1 megajoules of energy as ethanol for every megajoule of petroleum consumed—in the form of nitrogen fertilizers or diesel for tractors—growing them. "It's a prediction because right now there are no biorefineries built that handle cellulosic material" like that which switchgrass provides, Vogel notes. "We're pretty confident the ethanol yield is pretty close." This means that switchgrass ethanol delivers 540 percent of the energy used to produce it, compared with just roughly 25 percent more energy returned by corn-based ethanol according to the most optimistic studies.

(Excerpt) Read more at sciam.com ...


TOPICS: News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: agw; energy; ethanol
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1 posted on 01/11/2008 8:07:06 AM PST by tobyhill
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To: tobyhill

Dude, grass will also give you the munchies.


2 posted on 01/11/2008 8:08:50 AM PST by lovecraft (Specialization is for insects.)
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To: tobyhill

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1950902/posts


3 posted on 01/11/2008 8:08:53 AM PST by z3n
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To: tobyhill

Switchgrass is better and it grows with far less water and care than corn. I also understand that farmers don’t like it because by pushing corn, the price of corn gets pushed up due to competition between corn as a food product and energy source. Maybe farmers need to work on a per-BTU pricing structure.


4 posted on 01/11/2008 8:09:16 AM PST by domenad (In all things, in all ways, at all times, let honor guide me.)
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To: tobyhill
Isn’t there also research into cellulose ethanol which can come from most any plant. That would be something turn your grass clippings and hedge trimmings into fuel.
5 posted on 01/11/2008 8:09:21 AM PST by NYCynic
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To: tobyhill

Ron Paul supporters hardest hit.


6 posted on 01/11/2008 8:10:21 AM PST by LIConFem (Thompson. Lifetime ACU Rating: 86 -- Hunter Lifetime ACU Rating: 92 (any combo will do, fellas))
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To: tobyhill

I’m sure the eco wacks and statists will be along shortly to protest any possible alternatives to foreign oil.


7 posted on 01/11/2008 8:10:39 AM PST by MoMagic
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To: lovecraft

Yup...and that means even more pressure on the corn growers...Fritos.


8 posted on 01/11/2008 8:11:02 AM PST by PubliusMM (RKBA; a matter of fact, not opinion...)
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To: z3n
To eliminate 30% as is being claimed in that article would nearly eliminate all need for any Middle-East product and Venezuela on top of that.
9 posted on 01/11/2008 8:11:48 AM PST by tobyhill (The media lies so much the truth is the exception)
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To: NYCynic

They already have make-your-own diesel kits that utilize that, in part.

In Texas, the taxing authorities don’t like it, of course.


10 posted on 01/11/2008 8:11:50 AM PST by TheThirdRuffian
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To: lovecraft

Dude!

11 posted on 01/11/2008 8:12:05 AM PST by llevrok (Drink your beer, damnit! There are sober people in Africa!)
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To: tobyhill

*starts planting switchgrass in teh backyard*

Now, if I could just get some plans for a fermentation-refinery that fits in my garage


12 posted on 01/11/2008 8:14:03 AM PST by z3n
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To: tobyhill

the hippies got excited there for a minute util it was explained it was for switchgrass.

(then they got the munchies and tried to eat it)


13 posted on 01/11/2008 8:14:46 AM PST by longtermmemmory (VOTE! http://www.senate.gov and http://www.house.gov)
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To: tobyhill

Then we can all recycle our grass clippings, get a tax credit, and make fuel for the auto????????


14 posted on 01/11/2008 8:15:06 AM PST by RetiredArmy (Better prepare, come Nov 08, we have a Marxist Commissar President and Marxist Congress.)
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To: llevrok

That’s my uncle...crazy man. Like wow. :-)


15 posted on 01/11/2008 8:15:21 AM PST by lovecraft (Specialization is for insects.)
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To: tobyhill

Ungrammatical headline.

Ethanol is a chemical formula. It’s chemically identical regardless of the feedstock.

What they meant is that switchgrass makes a better feedstock, but that’s not what they said.


16 posted on 01/11/2008 8:16:06 AM PST by Sherman Logan
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To: TheThirdRuffian
They’ve been cracking down on the farm diesel being used in semis but the drivers can’t make any money unless they cheat.
17 posted on 01/11/2008 8:17:00 AM PST by tobyhill (The media lies so much the truth is the exception)
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To: tobyhill

Using grass for fuel is great and all, but where am I supposed to find rolling papers big enough to hold my car?


18 posted on 01/11/2008 8:17:01 AM PST by nhoward14 (Fred Thompson will get it DUN DUN in 2008!)
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To: lovecraft
Dude, grass will also give you the munchies.

LOL!
I guess that's why they invented drive-thrus!

19 posted on 01/11/2008 8:17:29 AM PST by Tanniker Smith (I didn't know she was a Liberal when I married her.)
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To: NYCynic

Or the crop that covers much of the Southern mountains to fantastic depths.....cudzu


20 posted on 01/11/2008 8:18:13 AM PST by bert (K.E. N.P. +12 . Moveon is not us...... Moveon is the enemy)
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To: tobyhill

Logically, cellulosic material should be usable to create ethanol. This information on switchgrass is quite interesting because of the increased energy component of the final product, when compared to corn.
Clearly deserves more research.

We need to get off foreign oil; all foreign oil. Ehtanol is but one way to help achieve that end. Others include increased drilling in domestic properties, construction of new refineries, and deployment of more solar, wind, hydroelectric and nuclear generation caoacity.

Time for the tree huggers and enviro-whackos to get out of the way.


21 posted on 01/11/2008 8:18:17 AM PST by PubliusMM (RKBA; a matter of fact, not opinion...)
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To: domenad
Exactly. The corn farmers are loving not only the usual government farm subsidies, but the increased price per bushel of corn has them all excited. There has even been concern that too many farmers are giving up planting other crops (such as soybeans) to plant corn because the money is so good.

From just my own personal observations I would say this is true. I cover quite a bit of area for my job (most of it rural farm country) here in Nebraska, and I am seeing fewer and fewer fields of soybeans and more corn. Some farmers that previously rotated between the two each year, are sticking with corn since the prices are so high. The big problem with this is that corn sucks the nutrients out of the ground so much, that if you don't rotate and give the ground a "rest" then you will have to augment with more and more fertilizer (especially nitrogen).

22 posted on 01/11/2008 8:19:24 AM PST by Pablo64 (What is popular is not always right. What is right is not always popular.)
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To: tobyhill

Yeah, we call it “orange” diesel out here. . . had some stolen out of my bullet tank recently.


23 posted on 01/11/2008 8:19:54 AM PST by TheThirdRuffian
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To: PubliusMM

caoacity = capacity

Saw that tagline on FR: QWERTY ERGO TYPO

I think of myself as digitally dyslexic...


24 posted on 01/11/2008 8:21:39 AM PST by PubliusMM (RKBA; a matter of fact, not opinion...)
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To: Sherman Logan
I personally find single malt Scotches to be a better kind of ethanol.

Forget ethanol as a fuel. Butanol would be the way to go instead if you can't use BioDiesel (from algae).

25 posted on 01/11/2008 8:23:45 AM PST by Paladin2 (Huma for co-president!)
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To: tobyhill

Sugar cane makes better ethanol than either, but they don’t row it where it will do either party any political good.


26 posted on 01/11/2008 8:24:48 AM PST by Natural Law
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To: tobyhill

Corn-based ethanol was ALWAYS a bad idea for biofuels.

Better idea - burn the refuse from the corn grain production, applying something called Startech’s Plasma Converter System, which may also be used to transform feedstock materials such as used tires, municipal solid waste and biomass into ethanol.

This is a concept straight out of Star Wars, and it has been refined to a pretty high level. Electricity may be co-generated with this process, and in the end, it is practically carbon-neutral, if it is using only organic waste. A secondary by-product from the plasma, a kind of slag that could be used as a building material, is formed from the inorganic substances that are dumped with the organic trash.

A third byproduct, heat, may be used directly to generate the energy needed to create the plasma torch that is the heart of the system, creating a temperature of 33,000 degrees Fahrenheit at the center of the torch. Not perpetual motion, but a great deal derived from something that is essentially a disposal problem. Look it up.

http://www.21stcenturysciencetech.com/2006_articles/Raw_Materials.pdf


27 posted on 01/11/2008 8:26:01 AM PST by alloysteel (The enormity of the truth is incredible. You could not make this stuff up.)
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To: PubliusMM
Logically, cellulosic material should be usable to create ethanol.

Logically, we shouldn't be using ethanol for fuel.

28 posted on 01/11/2008 8:27:01 AM PST by Moonman62 (The issue of whether cheap labor makes America great should have been settled by the Civil War.)
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To: Pablo64

The “usual government subsidies” and the high price of corn are, by and large, mutually exclusive. For the past year or so, the market price of corn has exceeded the FSA target price.


29 posted on 01/11/2008 8:29:04 AM PST by Mr. Lucky
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To: Moonman62

Why not?


30 posted on 01/11/2008 8:30:31 AM PST by PubliusMM (RKBA; a matter of fact, not opinion...)
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To: PubliusMM

Low energy content, attracts water, and can’t be transported by pipeline.


31 posted on 01/11/2008 8:31:44 AM PST by Moonman62 (The issue of whether cheap labor makes America great should have been settled by the Civil War.)
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Comment #32 Removed by Moderator

To: domenad

True it takes 22 pounds of corn to make one gal. of gas not a good cost ratio plus it takes two gal. of ethanpl to do what one gal. of gas can do E85 is a waste of time and money.


33 posted on 01/11/2008 8:35:50 AM PST by Vaduz (and just think how clean the cities would become again.)
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Comment #34 Removed by Moderator

To: tobyhill

If grass works as a fuel without the magical application of tax subsidy, then more power to it.


35 posted on 01/11/2008 8:36:08 AM PST by agere_contra
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Comment #36 Removed by Moderator

To: Moonman62

These are all technological issues. Do you believe that these can’t be overcome by research and development efforts? Once addressed, the resolutions will be subject to cost/benefit pressures, like most other things in the broader marketplace.

The cost/benefit issues like these are merely obstacles to be overcome, not show stoppers...unless we let them become show stoppers.


37 posted on 01/11/2008 8:47:08 AM PST by PubliusMM (RKBA; a matter of fact, not opinion...)
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To: z3n

just build a still........plenty of plans on line, and if ya use it for ethanol, the government will give you a permit...the only problem is that the by product is 80 proof alcohol...you have to PROMISE to dump this back into the boiler and re-process it......


38 posted on 01/11/2008 8:56:29 AM PST by joe fonebone (When in danger, when in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout)
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To: domenad
also understand that farmers don’t like it because by pushing corn

More important to today's farmer is there is no market today to buy it.

From the article:
there are no biorefineries built that handle cellulosic material...

39 posted on 01/11/2008 8:58:41 AM PST by thackney (life is fragile, handle with prayer)
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To: Natural Law
Sugar cane makes better ethanol than either

Better? no. Just more expensive.

THE ECONOMIC FEASIBILITY OF ETHANOL PRODUCTION FROM SUGAR IN THE UNITED STATES
http://www.usda.gov/oce/EthanolSugarFeasibilityReport3.pdf
USDA July 2006, see page iv

U.S. Corn wet milling = 1.03
U.S. Corn dry milling = 1.05
U.S. Sugar cane = 2.40
U.S. Sugar beets = 2.35
U.S. Molasses = 1.27
U.S. Raw sugar = 3.48
U.S. Refined sugar = 3.97
Brazil Sugar Cane = 0.81
E.U. Sugar Beets = 2.89

All in dollars per gallon

40 posted on 01/11/2008 9:02:41 AM PST by thackney (life is fragile, handle with prayer)
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To: SmallGovBest

“Carried too far, this would conewrn me:”

At least it wouldn’t stune your beeber.


41 posted on 01/11/2008 9:12:51 AM PST by bk1000 (A clear conscience is a sure sign of a poor memory)
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To: tobyhill

Whether you use grass or corn, it causes more CO2 to be released into the atmosphere to manufacture ethanol than to just use gasoline. Not that CO2 released into the atmosphere makes any difference to anything.


42 posted on 01/11/2008 9:18:16 AM PST by Mogollon
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To: NYCynic

Spent Liquor gasification. Uses a byproduct of paper making to make bio fuels.

Do a search on it.


43 posted on 01/11/2008 9:21:39 AM PST by crz
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To: tobyhill

DUH, I guess this is result of millions of dollars of government funded research.


44 posted on 01/11/2008 9:25:45 AM PST by org.whodat (What's the difference between a Democrat and a republican????)
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To: tobyhill

www.gasification.org/Docs/2006_Papers/27LAND.pdf

There is a plant that is about to be (started on) constructed at NewPage paper corp in Escanaba Mi.

They are in the initial stages of planning at this time.


45 posted on 01/11/2008 9:26:16 AM PST by crz
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To: z3n
Now, if I could just get some plans for a fermentation-refinery that fits in my garage

Google moonshiners still, Same thing! http://homedistiller.org/photos-moonshine.htm

46 posted on 01/11/2008 9:29:27 AM PST by org.whodat (What's the difference between a Democrat and a republican????)
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To: thackney

Just more expensive because of the meddeling of the government in price supports and land & water use restrictions. Sugar Cane produces more potential Kcals per acre than grass or corn, but artificial economic factors make it more expensive.


47 posted on 01/11/2008 3:37:57 PM PST by Natural Law
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To: Mogollon

...but growing the corn or switchgrass removes the CO2 from the atmosphere.


48 posted on 01/11/2008 4:19:17 PM PST by Mr. Lucky
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To: alloysteel
I have worked with plasma systems for the last 15 years and I am very skeptical about plasma waste disposal and recycling systems.

Has anyone ever brought a commercially viable product to market?

A common large power supply used in plasma cutting and plasma spray systems can require up to 140Kw of input power to sustain a 6" stream of plasma.

49 posted on 01/11/2008 5:37:59 PM PST by SC Swamp Fox (Join our Folding@Home team (Team# 36120) keyword: folding)
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To: alloysteel
Has anyone ever brought a commercially viable product to market?

I found my own answer, it appears there are lots of waste reprocessing systems around, but I can't see how you could get one to produce more energy then it consumes creating and sustaining the plasma.

http://www.solenagroup.com/html/images/plasma.pdf

50 posted on 01/11/2008 5:50:12 PM PST by SC Swamp Fox (Join our Folding@Home team (Team# 36120) keyword: folding)
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