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Grass makes environmentally friendly biofuel

Grow grass, not for fun but for fuel. Burning grass for energy has been a well-accepted technology in Europe for decades. But not in the United States.

Yet burning grass pellets as a biofuel is economical, energy-efficient, environmentally friendly and sustainable, says a Cornell University forage crop expert.

This alternative fuel easily could be produced and pelleted by farmers and burned in modified stoves built to burn wood pellets or corn, says Jerry Cherney, the E.V. Baker Professor of Agriculture. Burning grass pellets hasn't caught on in the United States, however, Cherney says, primarily because Washington has made no effort to support the technology with subsidies or research dollars.

"Burning grass pellets makes sense; after all, it takes 70 days to grow a crop of grass for pellets, but it takes 70 million years to make fossil fuels," says Cherney, who notes that a grass-for-fuel crop could help supplement farmers' incomes. Cherney presented the case for grass biofuel at a U.S. Department of Agriculture-sponsored conference, Greenhouse Gases and Carbon Sequestration in Agriculture and Forestry, held March 21-24 in Baltimore.

"Grass pellets have great potential as a low-tech, small-scale, renewable energy system that can be locally produced, locally processed and locally consumed, while having a positive impact on rural communities," Cherney told the conference.

The downside? "Unfortunately grass has no political lobby, which makes the start up of any new alternative energy industry problematic," says Cherney. He notes that a pellet-fuel industry was successfully established in Europe by providing subsidies to the industry. And even though the ratio of the amount of energy needed to produce grass pellets to the amount of energy they produce is much more favorable than for other biomass crops, the lack of government support prevents the industry from going forward, he says.

Cherney has made a comparison of wood
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Source:Cornell University News Service


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