Researchers have been studying fuels from biomass for years. Now, with growing dependency on foreign oils and an energy-conscious society emerging, biofuels are fast becoming part of a fuel revolution that could reach pumps all across America.
"Production of energy, such as ethanol, from sugar is more efficient than production from grains in both cost per unit and energy efficiency," Da Silva of Texas A&M University says. "Sugarcane is ranked first among all other crops for biomass production and can be a key component of biomass supply. Technology for producing ethanol from sugarcane is well established in tropical countries such as Brazil, where energy independence has been achieved."
Dr. Jorge Da Silva, associate professor of molecular genetics and plant breeding, Soil & Crop Sciences Department, Texas A&M University, "Sweet Fuel for the U.S.", will be making a presentation on biofuels on Nov. 6*.
Ethanol blends are already available at some US gas stations. However, their availability varies from state to state, depending on the volume of ethanol produced. Sources of biomass for biofuel production in each state also vary widely.
"To see it everywhere, we have to make more of it on a regional basis," says Dr. Bill Rooney, professor of plant breeding and genetics, Soil & Crop Sciences Department, Texas A&M University. "The best source for biofuel in a region is contingent on the environment, growing season, water and fertility availability, stress resistance, and processing and conversion techniques. In any location, there will be several species grown for biomass."
Approximately 20 percent of grain sorghum is now used for ethanol production. Rooney is currently developing sorghum varieties specifically for bioenergy. He will discuss this topic on Nov. 7 during his talk,* "Sorghum Breeding for Bioenergy Traits."
Although there is no finite development timeline, there is clearly a race for biofuels as the cost of petroleum reaches previously unimaginable levels, reserves diminish, and environmental concerns soar. If won, this race could bring about a revolution as significant as Henry Ford's creation of the Model T car.
* The talks are to be given at the International Annual Meetings of the American Society of Agronomy , Crop Science Society of America, and Soil Science Society of America at the Morial Convention Center in New Orleans.
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