A long-term study in the Midwest shows that switchgrass is a better feedstock for ethanol than previously thought.
This AFP story says the trial showed that native North American prairie grass could produce a whopping 540 percent more renewable energy than what it takes to produce the ethanol:
Previous estimates, based on small scale research plots, suggested the grass would yield a net energy production of about 343 percent. Net energy production is considered an important measure of sustainability.
“When you go to the farm scale, results are better than predicted,” said Kenneth Vogel, a research geneticist with the US Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service based at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln.
“There is a lot of potential to make further improvements,” he added. “The plants used in this trial were developed for pasture and conservation. We’re now breeding plants specifically to be used as energy crops.”
The story goes on to say that cellulosic ethanols, such as the switchgrass ethanol, are gaining popularity as refiners look to become more efficient in their energy production.