Kudzu is sometimes called "the vine that ate the South." Anyone who's lived or visited the southeastern U.S. can certainly understand why. The fast-growing vine swarms over trees and buildings and other items. A few years ago, there was a lot of talk about finding a way to use the invasive plant as a biomass ingredient for cellulosic ethanol, with both the University of Toronto and the U.S. Department of Agriculture investigating the issue. We haven't heard much about that plan for a while now, though, and the AP tells us why: the poor economy.
Even though a 2008 study by the UT and USDA found that kudzu might be able to produce a corn-like 400 liters of ethanol per acre, the follow-up portion of that study – a large-scale proof-of-concept project – never got underway because alt-fuel investments dried up when the recession hit. Low petroleum gas prices also didn't help.
All is not dead in the kudzu biofuel world, though. A Tennessee-based company – Agrogas – still looking for money to try and commercialize the idea, so we might figure out a way to use the plant before it totally takes over.