Should Corn Ethanol Be Put Out to Grass?

January 18, 2008 03:00 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
A study finds that switchgrass could be a better source of ethanol fuel than corn. But the value of ethanol as a sustainable source of alternative energy is still being questioned.

30-Second Summary

Switchgrass is commonly found at the edges of farm cropland, and was studied as a source of fuel in a report appearing in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA.

A Scientific American article on that research paper stated, “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.”

The study was funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture–Agricultural Research Service.

However, the debate on whether to use ethanol as an alternative energy source far from over.

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey champions ethanol as part of a great opportunity for agriculture in 2008.

While James B. Meigs of Popular Mechanics states that ethanol is an unsatisfactory answer to the impeding oil shortage.

“There’s a simple reason that ethanol is popular with politicians: money. Substituting corn ethanol for a large fraction of the gasoline we burn will mean sluicing gushers of cash from more populated states to politically powerful farm states,” writes Meigs.

Headline Link: Switchgrass ethanol?

Opinion: Is Ethanol the answer to increased oil prices?

Contra ethanol
Pro ethanol

Related Topics: Environmental issues

Reference Material: Consumer Reports; the National Corn Growers Association


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