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The Future Of Switchgrass As A Cellulosic Ethanol Feedstock


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Switchgrass. Ah! It grows everywhere, requires little care and can produce reasonable yields of feedstock for cellulosic ethanol production. This plant should hence be a godsent boon for the biofuel industry, or is it?


On the face of it, plants such as switchgrass should be a better candidate overall for ethanol than corn. For instance, a study by Nobel Prize winner Paul Crutzen found ethanol produced from corn had a "net climate warming" effect when compared to oil when the full life cycle assessment properly considers the nitrous oxide (N20) emissions that occur during corn ethanol production. Crutzen found that crops with less nitrogen demand, such as grasses and woody coppice species, have more favourable climate impacts. Here is a post that also dwells on the benefits of using switchgrass as a feedstock for cellulosic ethanol.


But switchgrass could become an invasive species, especially in some regions ( reference - http://genomicscience.energy.gov/research/DOEUSDA/switchgrass.shtml ). And the fact is, it has not been used on such a large scale for biofuel production, so there could be quite a few unknowns.


What are your opinions about switchgrass as a biofuel (cellulosic ethanol) feedstock?

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