The nation's first ever biorefinery designed to convert switchgrass into ethanol has recently been christened in Tennessee. The demonstration facily is 74,000-square-foot and experts predict that the plant should produce 250,000 gallons of ethanol. In addition to switchgrass, the plant uses matter from agricultural residue (such as corn cobs) and bioenergy crops.
The plant is expected to open for commercial purposes in 2012. Tennessee has allocated $70 million on the project of turning switchgrass into ethanol, or "grassoline" as they call it. The impetus for the project comes from the Federal government as Congress has mandated an increase in the use of ethanol.
Local growers, up to about 40 in the region, are receiving subsidies to grow switchgrass for use as ethanol and at present about 2,600 acres of the crop are being grown in the area.
On the surface, ethanol seems like a great idea. Instead of importing millions of barrels of oil, why not just use the renewable resources readily available domestically? The problem is, however, this wonderul renewable resource, at least in the United States, happens to also feed millions of people and animals.
One possible answer to this dilemma is to produce ethanol from an alternative resource--one that we don't already use for consumption. Ethanol derived from cellulosic materiels such as grass, wood, straw and other plant materials seems to be one such solution.
Switchgrass, a resilient, high-yield grass native to North America, has been drawing a lot of attention lately thanks to the president giving it his imprimatur in his 2006 State of the Union address.
This might just be more than political rhetoric because Switchgrass (also known as Tall Panic Grass) could become the biofuel of our dreams.Read more: Switchgrass: Native American Powerhouse?
by Ryan Thomas
Business Week reported that even though President Bush enjoyed a high-profile photo-op on Monday with the heads of the Big Three automakers who showed him an impressive lineup of their latest clean-car models. Flex cars include General Motors Corporations model that can run on ethanol, a plug-in vehicle powered by hydrogen from the Ford Motor Co., and a DaimlerChrysler AG Jeep fueled by a biodiesel blend. According to the magazine all was not quite what it seemed.
Read more: The Grey Clouds Blurring Flex Cars Goal
Ethanol is a clean-burning fuel made from grain alcohol produced from assorted crops usually corn. It is commonly used used in combination with traditional gasoline, usually in a blend of 85% ethanol and 15% unleaded gasoline and called E-85.
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