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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.
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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.
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“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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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!! :yup:
 

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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! :p:
 

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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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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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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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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.
 

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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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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!! :yup:

Ethanol provides much more power than gas. It takes more, it's less energy DENSE.


I agree with everything else, algae diesel is the way to go, but ethanol can be figured out to replace a lot of gasoline. I think E85 is stupid. It doesn't want to burn in cold weather and reduces economy about 30%. Even if it costs 30% less, that is more refueling stops...which nobody wants. We need experiment with different concentrations. Most vehicles could handle 15-20%, and maybe we could reach a compromise between economy loss and oil needed if we try a 50-50 or maybe 60-40.

There is no need to be in the situation we are in. There are ways out, we just need NEW companies to kick start them. Oil companies want nothing to do with ethanol....and why should they? Because it would be nice for us? Yea right...they are still in the business of selling oil, and legislating new laws saying they should sell less oil is completely against the constitution and capitalism.

There are fixes...we just need to get moving towards a solution and stop hoping if we close our eyes and click our heels that someone else will wipe our asses for us.
 

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Ethanol provides much more power than gas. It takes more, it's less energy DENSE.


I agree with everything else, algae diesel is the way to go, but ethanol can be figured out to replace a lot of gasoline. I think E85 is stupid. It doesn't want to burn in cold weather and reduces economy about 30%. Even if it costs 30% less, that is more refueling stops...which nobody wants. We need experiment with different concentrations. Most vehicles could handle 15-20%, and maybe we could reach a compromise between economy loss and oil needed if we try a 50-50 or maybe 60-40.

There is no need to be in the situation we are in. There are ways out, we just need NEW companies to kick start them. Oil companies want nothing to do with ethanol....and why should they? Because it would be nice for us? Yea right...they are still in the business of selling oil, and legislating new laws saying they should sell less oil is completely against the constitution and capitalism.

There are fixes...we just need to get moving towards a solution and stop hoping if we close our eyes and click our heels that someone else will wipe our asses for us.
If the engine is designed to run on ethanol first and gasoline second, it is actually more powerful. Saab Biopower
 

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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.
NOPE.

And this would be in reference to.... what ? ...... certainly not petroleum based fuels.

Petroleum based fuels are way more energy intensive and environmentally 'challenging' to produce and distribute - especially when sourced overseas.

What matters on fuel is 'wellhead' to 'wheel' with all variables accounted for.

The process of producing one gallon of petroleum derived gasoline is truly one of the modern marvels of the world because of the complexity involved - especially ( but not limited to ) the art and science involved at the refinery and other things like offshore drilling rigs ( especially in the North Sea area) and pipelines thru tough terrain in extreme weather areas.

Ethanol is a walk in the park comparatively speaking.

Abiotic oil - deep wheel drilling is almost always even more complex as well - it ain't easy.

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.
Not true - 'waste' of all sorts - including sewage are coming along as base feed stock material, and besides, as pointed out in this thread and elsewhere, plants sources grown where no food crop is possible is also a real possibility going forward.

We also still have considerable land were the US taxpayer is paying to not have a crop produced - why not turn that over to fuel - and save the cost ?

Look, nothing's perfect - especially at the start - but that's no reason to not pick the best bundle of solutions - which most definitely includes domestically produced bio fuels - such as ethanol.

If the United States was 30% bio fuel dependent - oil prices would be way down as would our trade deficits.

Now extrapolate worldwide.

IMO, you can get to that number w/o destabilizing or reducing food crop production - surprisingly 'quickly' - and 'relatively' easily ie worth doing now.

That, btw, is a conservative number.

And another thing that matters a great deal - a fuel's efficiency in use is not determined solely by it basic energy content nor is a fuel's overall desirability determined by that number either.

If this were true than this whole debate would be about diesel versus bio diesel - which also is worth pursuing .

Diesel fuel blows gasoline away much more so than gasoline hold net advantage over ethanol.

In laymans terms its about how well you harness it - as measured at the flywheel - or rear wheels -ethanol essentially makes up part of its energy deficiency by more efficient combustion produced energy capture.

Again, as others have pointed out, you can run some combination of greater spark advance, boost, and or compression to 'gain back' some of energy density loss.

Ethanol in the form of E100 is a very compelling high performance - or high efficiency fuel - in the real world when measured 'wellhead' to 'wheel'.

Finally, as HooserRon pointed out , there is an enormous bundle of 'other' costs associated with importing oil that domestic bio fuel - ethanol does not entail.
 

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All high powered sports cars should be running on E85, from the plant that doesn't feed somone, on the smallest land foot print, with the least amount of water used, without using any fertilizer or pesticides.

I could run 700 WHP on my Supra without much trouble using E85, sure my mileage would suck, but it would be much cheaper, and its a weekend car anyways.
 
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