Saturday, January 12, 2008

1-12-08: Follow-up on Switchgrass

I made a post a few days ago about Switchgrass, which is a prairie grass that is capable of producing up to five times as much energy as it consumes during production. Well, apparently they're further along the path to using it than I thought, which is a good thing.

In a Scientific American article from January 8th, it is said that farmers in Nebraska and the Dakotas are starting to grow the plant in massive amounts in order to use it for biofuel production. This is simply marvelous. Not only will massive production cut down on overall cost, but it will bring the plant in the limelight as a better alternative than corn ethanol production. On top of that, it is a native North American plant that already grows on farmland, so farmers are familiar with it. It also doesn't need to be replanted, as it is a perennially growing grass.

Another great thing about all of this is that the Department of Agriculture is helping out, so the government has its hand in this. That's reassuring, since I was worried that special interest groups would get too involved in blocking this from even starting. In addition to the USDA, the Department of Energy is chipping in and helping to build six cellulosic biorefineries, which will be used to refine the product. So that makes two government players in the game. So long as they don't stay in too long, things should be good.

I'm looking forward to seeing things like this flourish, mostly because I believe it will help our economy. We've relied on foreign oil for too long, and the OPEC countries need to sweat a little. If we cut down our foreign oil dependence by even just 10%, just look at the billions they would lose. Oh yeah, food prices would come down too. It might not be a revolution, but it's a good start.

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