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Switchgrass as biofuel could cut emissions by 94%

Switchgrass as biofuel could cut emissions by 94%A new study by Kenneth Vogel from the University of Nebraska shows that farming switchgrass as biofuel will produce 540% more energy than is required to grow and manufacture it.

This can be compared to 25% for corn ethanol and 93% for soybean ethanol. But one of the more interesting and positive result from the study was that the emissions created by switchgrass would be around 94% lower than the emissions from petrol. That means switchgrass would be almost carbon neutral.

Another positive thing with using switchgrass as biofuel is that it does not need to take up valuable land areas. Kenneth Vogel explains that switchgrass only needs to be grown on secondary croplands. And the switchgrass only needs to be planted once as it returns year after year.

Rainer Zah, head of the Life Cycle Assessment & Modelling group of the Swiss Materials Science and Technology research institution, EMPA, in Saint Gallen, acknowledges that switchgrass seems to be a very promising fuel but he worries about its dinitrogen oxide emissions, a more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

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This is encouraging news for those of us who are hoping to develop practical alternative energy solutions. Recently I have been reading articles about biofuels not being practical because of the cost and energy expended to produce them, but this switchgrass idea seems to refute most of the concerns. And since it apparently grows as a weed, we could produce it in greater quantities too.

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Not using food stock or useable farmland, secondary or otherwise, and reusing 95% of the water required, how is this not the answer to completely replacing the diesel & jet fuel we are currently getting from oil? Algae sequesters carbon dioxide when growing to make up 2/3 of its weight, getting us much closer to a closed loop resource. Of course this is only a temporary solution until we replace internal combustion engines, but it would get us much closer to carbon neutral on these fuels. This company already has completed an 1/8 acre pilot that translates to enough biomass to produce 33,000 gallons of fuel per acre, per year. The biomass left over after the refining process could generate all of the energy required to run the refinery. This is a biomass crop that can and should be grown in the desert. It is estimated that we could grow all of the diesel fuel we currently get from oil on 1/2000th the acerage of Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas & Utah. How about this for a valuable developing country crop? www.valcent.net Valcent Products has also solved the problems of shading and scalability.

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