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Thread: From Corn Waste to Bio-Fuel

  1. #1
    I eve's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    Queensland, Australia


    Extracted from the Environmental Magazine article by Phoebe Hall: From Corn Waste to Bio-Fuel.

    Ethanol, made primarily from corn kernels, is mostly used as a gasoline additive that boosts oxygen content and reduces air pollution, but it has the potential to replace gasoline in passenger vehicles. Already, auto manufacturers are turning out “flex-fuel” vehicles that can run on either gasoline or a blend containing 85 percent ethanol. (Environmentalists have criticized the ethanol subsidy program as a political giveaway to farm states, since many “flex-fuel” vehicles rarely run on hard-to-find ethanol.)

    While ethanol is cleaner and more efficient to produce than gas, the land and fertilizers used to grow the corn, the runoff from the fields, and the energy used to plant and harvest the crop have many environmentalists giving this alternative fuel the cold shoulder. But that needn’t be the case. The ethanol source of the future is not the corn kernel but the stover—the stalk, cob and other portions of the plant that are currently fed to livestock, burned or left lying on the field—as well as wheat residue, rice straw and fast-growing “energy crops” such as switchgrass or poplar trees. Such cellulosic ethanol, as it is called, “is dramatically more efficient than corn ethanol,” says David Friedman, research director of the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Clean Vehicles Program.

    In 2004, US ethanol producers made about 3.4 billion gallons of the fuel, mostly from corn, according to the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), an ethanol lobbying group. John Sheehan of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) National Bioenergy Center says that farmers often leave corn stover on the land to enrich and protect the soil. To collect it sustainably, farmers would have to invest in equipment for wholeplant harvesting.

    Another potential source being looked at is switchgrass, a native prairie grass that doesn’t need much fertilizer, is drought resistant and grows well in our climate, according to a senior policy analyst at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Nov 2004


    Thanks for those articles - I found the one about ethanol quite interesting. It is fascinating to look at potential alternative sources of fuel. I don't think we will live in a post-apocalyptic world when the petroleum sources run out like some recent writers have suggested. There is too much profit to be made from being the first one to find and market a viable alternative fuel source.

    I'm not sure what the solution to the timber problem is, but surely selectively logging regrowth forests might be a better alternative than destroying old-growth forests and illegally clearing huge tracts of land, which is happening at an alarming rate. So much furniture for sale in Australia is made from timber sourced in Indonesia, PNG and other poorer countries who are exploiting and destroying their natural resources for profit.

    Your articles are appreciated, Eve.

  3. #3
    gorillagorilla Gorilla's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Sussex, UK


    yes eve i have also been reading your posts with interest. like PFC i just don't feel i have much to add personally.
    'The word gorilla was derived from the Greek word Gorillai (a "tribe of hairy women")'

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    The OC, CA, USA

    Default Re: From Corn Waste to Bio-Fuel

    Doesn't corn make ethanol? Or both? Anyways I've seen the process of it on Fuel Amazing documentary about alternative energy and how fuel is affecting the world.

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