GREENSCAPE GARDEN FACT
Grass Gas......An Alternative Fuel
Forty percent of U.S. energy is used as electricity. The easiest way to get electricity is using a solid fuel such as coal. However, 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.
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Burning Miscanthus produces only as much carbon dioxide as it removes from the air as it grows. That balance means there is no net effect on atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, which is not the case with fossil fuels. Miscanthus also is a very efficient fuel, because the energy ratio of input to output is less than 0.2. In contrast, the ratios exceed 0.8 for ethanol and biodiesel from canola, which are other plant-derived energy sources.
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Besides being a clean, efficient and renewable fuel source, Miscanthus also is remarkably easy to grow. Other varieties of Miscanthus have been grown successfully in Indiana, Michigan and Ohio. However, the giant Miscanthus being grown by the Illinois researchers has the greatest potential as a fuel source because of its high yields and because it is sterile and cannot become a weed. “Miscanthus sacchariflorus and some of the other fertile Miscanthus species can be quite invasive.” The next step is to demonstrate how Miscanthus goes from a plant to a power source. Existing U.S. power plants could be modified to use Miscanthus for fuel as in Europe.
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