Monday, January 7, 2008

1-7-08: Switchgrass

I've been paying a little attention to the push for alternative fuels. Personally, I think nuclear power isn't get its fair shake, but that's another issue. Today I heard about a study done about Switchgrass, which is grown mostly on the prairie but can be found in many places. It's cheap to plant, grows well on its own, and is easy to harvest. Oh yeah, and they can make ethanol with it at nearly five times the efficiency of corn ethanol production.

The idea that you can take something that's relatively useless as switchgrass and make it into something that can help reduce our dependence on foreign oil is quite amazing. It's in the early stages of development, so there are bound to be setbacks, but it's good to know that actual work is getting done. Corn ethanol is simply too inefficient, and therefore expensive, to be a viable alternative energy source. It's driving up food prices, which hurts all Americans.

What's unfortunate is there isn't a huge lobbying firm that's out there to support switchgrass. Maybe some one should start one. I'm sure there are a million catchy phrases out there for slogans. Just look at all the possibilities for the word "Switch." Shit, "Switch to Switchgrass" is simple enough. People like catchy slogans. Corn ethanol just sounds lame compared to Switchgrass. It seems more like the bad boy of the ethanol producing plants, but at the same time it's so much more efficient. It's just like the thug that's actually a good guy who helps kids. Like Ice T or some one like that. He could do Switchgrass commercials!

What I hope is that something like this becomes viable in the next five to ten years. But, it's never easy to go against the mainstream. People know big oil will fight this. People know there are probably setbacks in changing it no matter what. But what people need to know most of all is that it's not going to be easy. It's not supposed to be easy. But with studies like this, and those to come, it's reassuring to know that at least something is getting done in the search for viable alternative fuels.

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