posted on Sep, 28 2005 @ 04:19 AM
Hybrid grass may prove to be valuable fuel source
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Giant Miscanthus (Miscanthus x giganteus), a hybrid grass that can grow 13 feet high, may be a valuable renewable fuel source for
the future, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign say...
"Forty percent of U.S. energy is used as electricity," Heaton said. "The easiest way to get electricity is using a solid fuel such as coal." Dry,
leafless Miscanthus stems can be used as a solid fuel. The cool-weather-friendly perennial grass, sometimes referred to as elephant grass or E-grass,
grows from an underground stem-like organ called a rhizome. Miscanthus, a crop native to Asia and a relative of sugarcane, drops its slender leaves in
the winter, leaving behind tall bamboo-like stems that can be harvested in early spring and burned for fuel...
Rhizomatous grasses such as Miscanthus are very clean fuels, said Dohleman, who is studying for a doctorate in plant biology. Nutrients such as
nitrogen are transferred to the rhizome to be saved until the next growing season, he said.
Burning Miscanthus produces only as much carbon dioxide as it removes from the air as it grows, said Heaton, who is seeking a doctorate in crop
sciences. That balance means there is no net effect on atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, which is not the case with fossil fuels, she said...
Besides being a clean, efficient and renewable fuel source, Miscanthus also is remarkably easy to grow. Upon reaching maturity, Miscanthus has few
needs as it outgrows weeds, requires little water and minimal fertilizer and thrives in untilled fields, Heaton said. In untilled fields, various
wildlife species make their homes in the plant's leafy canopy and in the surrounding undisturbed soil...
Using a computer simulator, Heaton predicted that if just 10 percent of Illinois land mass was devoted to Miscanthus, it could provide 50 percent
of Illinois electricity needs. Using Miscanthus for energy would not necessarily reduce energy costs in the short term, Heaton said, but there
would be significant savings in carbon dioxide production...
Well this sounds promising...
At a minimum, it would be a lot better than the mountaintop removal techniques currently being employed by coal mining companies (which in my view is
enough of a reason to find an alternative to coal! ....nevermind global warming.)
[edit on 28-9-2005 by loam]