Field test confirms miscanthus far better than corn or switchgrass for ethanol

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Thread: Field test confirms miscanthus far better than corn or switchgrass for ethanol

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    Field test confirms miscanthus far better than corn or switchgrass for ethanol

    Miscanthus can meet U.S. biofuels goal using less land than corn or switchgrass


    In field trials in Illinois, researchers grew Miscanthus x giganteus and switchgrass in adjoining plots. Miscanthus proved to be at least twice as productive as switchgrass.


    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — In the largest field trial of its kind in the United States, researchers have determined that the giant perennial grass Miscanthus x giganteus outperforms current biofuels sources – by a lot. Using Miscanthus as a feedstock for ethanol production in the U.S. could significantly reduce the acreage dedicated to biofuels while meeting government biofuels production goals, the researchers report.
    ...
    Using corn or switchgrass to produce enough ethanol to offset 20 percent of gasoline use – a current White House goal – would take 25 percent of current U.S. cropland out of food production, the researchers report. Getting the same amount of ethanol from Miscanthus would require only 9.3 percent of current agricultural acreage. (View a narrated slideshow about Miscanthus research.)

    “What we’ve found with Miscanthus is that the amount of biomass generated each year would allow us to produce about 2 1/2 times the amount of ethanol we can produce per acre of corn,” said crop sciences professor Stephen P. Long, who led the study.
    ...
    “One reason why Miscanthus yields more biomass than corn is that it produces green leaves about six weeks earlier in the growing season,” Long said. Miscanthus also stays green until late October in Illinois, while corn leaves wither at the end of August, he said.

    The growing season for switchgrass is comparable to that of Miscanthus, but it is not nearly as efficient at converting sunlight to biomass as Miscanthus, Frank Dohleman, a graduate student and co-author on the study, found.

    Using the grass Miscanthus x giganteus as a feedstock for ethanol production would significantly reduce the amount of farmland needed for biofuels, said U. of I. crop sciences professor Stephen P. Long.


    Corn, switchgrass and Miscanthus are grown side by side in experimental plots in Urbana, Ill. These fields, shown in 2006, were in their second year of growth.

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    Re: Field test confirms miscanthus far better than corn or switchgrass for ethanol

    I'm still not convinced that ethanol is a viable alternative to gas/oil. Ethanol provides less power than gasoline and mileage suffers greatly.

    However, I do believe the algae to oil (biodiesel) plant prospects appear incredibly viable.
    In theory, wasted space on the tops of buildings could be turned into mini biodiesel growing environments nationwide and reap rewards/benefits to all. The best part is biodiesel would not affect food/agriculture crops and land management like the media hype has complained corn ethanol would!

    Just think - big plants in metro areas (car manufacturers for example) could grow their own fuel for the diesel powered vehicles on the wasted space of their own rooftops. Now that's cool!!
    "“Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.” -- Goethe

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    Re: Field test confirms miscanthus far better than corn or switchgrass for ethanol

    Quote Originally Posted by killerrd2 View Post
    I'm still not convinced that ethanol is a viable alternative to gas/oil. Ethanol provides less power than gasoline and mileage suffers greatly.
    Why must ethanol produce the same power as gasoline to be a viable alternative?

    I think this is exciting research and am interested in seeing where this leads. I'll gladly give up horsepower/range to reduce foreign oil consumption.

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    Re: Field test confirms miscanthus far better than corn or switchgrass for ethanol

    Quote Originally Posted by killerrd2 View Post
    I'm still not convinced that ethanol is a viable alternative to gas/oil. Ethanol provides less power than gasoline and mileage suffers greatly.
    Someone has been drinking the big oil kool-aid. Ethanol is still extremely energy rich. Most of the energy in gasoline gets wasted anyways. And actually ethanol can be MORE fuel efficient than gasoline if it's burned in an engined designed only for ethanol. Ethanol only engines have a much higher compression ratio which allows you to extract more of the energy.

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    Re: Field test confirms miscanthus far better than corn or switchgrass for ethanol

    Quote Originally Posted by ByTheLake View Post
    Why must ethanol produce the same power as gasoline to be a viable alternative?

    I think this is exciting research and am interested in seeing where this leads. I'll gladly give up horsepower/range to reduce foreign oil consumption.
    Because fuel is burnt the same way no matter what is used. Since ethanol is a higher octane, the gas could burn more slowly, but I really can't see that making a huge difference in fuel economy. The main problem is finding a fuel that is as effortless to produce as petrol is now, and at the same time is able to be produced on a massive scale. That is something that ethanol cannot match...yet.

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    Re: Field test confirms miscanthus far better than corn or switchgrass for ethanol

    Quote Originally Posted by Xenon View Post
    The main problem is finding a fuel that is as effortless to produce as petrol is now, and at the same time is able to be produced on a massive scale. That is something that ethanol cannot match...yet.
    You say that as if the current situation is acceptable, and the only way we can change from the status quo is if the alternative is if the alternative is better. I disagree with this. Right now Americans are paying foreign countries $700 Billion dollars per year for gasoline. That is killing the U.S. economy. The status quo is not acceptable, and it is not sustainable. The U.S. will go broke.

    Ethanol may contain less energy, but that is no reason to reject it. If it keeps $700 Billion in the U.S. economy, it is far more "efficient" than gasoline.

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    Re: Field test confirms miscanthus far better than corn or switchgrass for ethanol

    Quote Originally Posted by Xenon View Post
    Because fuel is burnt the same way no matter what is used. Since ethanol is a higher octane, the gas could burn more slowly, but I really can't see that making a huge difference in fuel economy. The main problem is finding a fuel that is as effortless to produce as petrol is now, and at the same time is able to be produced on a massive scale. That is something that ethanol cannot match...yet.
    The argument for alternative fuels, including ethanol, is as much a political discussion as one of technology and physics.

    We simply can't say "sorry, the middle east retains a huge influence over the US economy because ethanol wasn't quite as efficient as petroleum-based fuels".

    Brazil didn't become self-sufficient by ignoring ethanol.

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    Re: Field test confirms miscanthus far better than corn or switchgrass for ethanol

    Quote Originally Posted by ByTheLake View Post
    The argument for alternative fuels, including ethanol, is as much a political discussion as one of technology and physics.

    We simply can't say "sorry, the middle east retains a huge influence over the US economy because ethanol wasn't quite as efficient as petroleum-based fuels".

    Brazil didn't become self-sufficient by ignoring ethanol.
    I never said "Ignore it". All I said is that ethanol production takes a lot more work than simply drilling a hole and sticking a pipe to pump the oil out. While ethanol is a start, but a lot of the means for producing ethanol is reliant on plants, which can only be harvested a limited amounted of times in a given year.

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    Re: Field test confirms miscanthus far better than corn or switchgrass for ethanol

    Quote Originally Posted by Xenon View Post
    Because fuel is burnt the same way no matter what is used. Since ethanol is a higher octane, the gas could burn more slowly, but I really can't see that making a huge difference in fuel economy. The main problem is finding a fuel that is as effortless to produce as petrol is now, and at the same time is able to be produced on a massive scale. That is something that ethanol cannot match...yet.
    It is burned the same way (or rather in a similar way) but produced differently and that is key and explains why these discussions are not simply an equation in which ethanol must prove it is identical to petroleum in every sense.

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    Re: Field test confirms miscanthus far better than corn or switchgrass for ethanol

    I was attempting to focus on saving the land for actual food crops. That way we don't create another issue by growing too much on the land.

    Grow the grass on the roof then!
    "“Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.” -- Goethe

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    Re: Field test confirms miscanthus far better than corn or switchgrass for ethanol

    E85 would be greatful in a car with direct injection, something that can take advantage of high compression ratios. High compresion, direct injection, turbocharged cars using E85 or higher could pull some serious numbers.
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    Re: Field test confirms miscanthus far better than corn or switchgrass for ethanol

    Thanks again for the article HoosierRon.

    I think it's important to point out, from the article, that Miscanthus
    - Grows in ground not well suited to growing food crops.
    - Is a perennial that does not need fertilization after the first year. So in theory it's probably relatively cheap.

    That said, I would have liked to read a cost conjecture as to how much it would cost to make each gallon of ethanol using this technology.

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    Re: Field test confirms miscanthus far better than corn or switchgrass for ethanol

    does miscanthus can grow in a more northern areas like the Canadian Prairies and Quebec? We can grow some switchgrass here but I don't know for miscanthus

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    Re: Field test confirms miscanthus far better than corn or switchgrass for ethanol

    Remember, this is research that started because of 9/11. People didn't want to pay money to those who hate us. So it has almost been 7 years and we are really starting to see just the first salvo in the ethanol process. Wait until the genetically modified Miscanthus is used. Wait until the more efficient processing gets used. I give it another 5 years and it will be making a huge dent in what we import.
    Erik

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    Re: Field test confirms miscanthus far better than corn or switchgrass for ethanol

    As long as we aren't converting food into fuel, and as long as the fuel creates more energy than is needed to create it, then I'm happy.

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