Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

Kevin Bullis

A View from Kevin Bullis

Cellulosic Ethanol Better Than Expected

New studies show that it takes less energy to grow cellulosic crops.

  • January 8, 2008

There’s some more good news about cellulosic ethanol, a fuel derived from grasses and other nonfood sources. It’s long been estimated that the amount of energy in such fuels will be much more than the energy required to make them–which is not the case with corn-grain-based ethanol. Now experimental results are in, and the ratio of energy produced to energy used is even better than expected. The renewable energy produced was 540 percent more than the nonrenewable energy used to make it. Previous studies estimated that the number would be more like 340 percent. The improvement comes, basically, from farmers using less energy than researchers thought they would to grow switchgrass, one of the proposed cellulosic sources.

The better ratio means that cellulosic ethanol could do more to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions than previously thought. That’s particularly good news, since new legislation will require that some 21 billion gallons of fuel be made from such non-corn-grain sources. The trick now is to improve methods for converting switchgrass into ethanol–making the processes cheaper–and to get farmers to start growing switchgrass in large amounts.

More from Sustainable Energy

Can we sustainably provide food, water, and energy to a growing population during a climate crisis?

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe and become an Insider.
  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}* Best Value

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus the digital magazine, extensive archive, ad-free web experience, and discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website

    The Download: our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation

    Bimonthly print magazine (6 issues per year)

    Bimonthly digital/PDF edition

    Access to the magazine PDF archive—thousands of articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips

    Special interest publications

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Special discounts to select partner offerings

    Ad-free web experience

  • Insider Basic {! insider.prices.basic !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Six issues of our award winning print magazine, unlimited online access plus The Download with the top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website

    The Download: our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation

    Bimonthly print magazine (6 issues per year)

  • Insider Online Only {! insider.prices.online !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Unlimited online access including articles and video, plus The Download with the top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website

    The Download: our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation

/3
You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.