Friday, March 07, 2008

Switchgrass Ethanol: 55 Cents a Gallon

The internet is full of frantic hysterics who claim that biofuels will starve the world. But no one eats switchgrass, and switchgrass grows on marginal soils not used for crops. If you can make $0.55 a gallon ethanol from switchgrass, who is being starved?
Following up on a net-energy study published in the January Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), a team of Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) scientists today reports the on-farm economic costs of producing switchgrass for cellulosic ethanol.

In their PNAS energy-analysis paper, the team reported that switchgrass, when used for cellulosic ethanol, yielded over five times more energy than required to produce the fuel. In this month's edition of the journal BioEnergy Research, the team describes their study's second part, which examined the farm-scale production costs of switchgrass.

...On average, switchgrass production costs were $60 per ton. Two farmers with previous experience growing switchgrass were able to limit production costs to $39 a ton. They were among a group of five farmers whose production costs were $50 or less per ton. That's something farmers elsewhere could probably achieve as they, too, gain production experience with switchgrass, the researchers suggest. Based on the $50-per-ton figure, and assuming a conversion efficiency of 80 to 90 gallons per ton, the farmgate production cost of cellulosic ethanol from switchgrass would be about $0.55 to $0.62 per gallon.___Source
Even at 62 cents a gallon for switchgrass ethanol, that is fairly economical fuel, for not starving anyone.

Of course, if you want to starve billions of people, that will cost you $10 a gallon or more. Al Gore and his friends will gladly handle the administrative costs.

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