The POET biofuel facility in Emmetsburg, IO received 61,000 “bone-dry tons of corn cobs and high cut material” Â to convert into biofuel this harvest season. This is the left-overs from harvesting and processing corn and thus was not grown solely to create biofuel. Farmers now have extra income from that which used to be waste.
The Iowa plant will process corn leftovers that pass through combines during harvesting and will produce up to 25 million gallons of ethanol a year. In addition, it will use biogas created during processing to run itself and a nearby plant. Nice.
“The enzymes found in the stomachs of cows and other cud-chewing cattle are able to breakdown tough plant material, and researchers are hoping that they could also be used to turn tough plants and trees” into cellulosic ethanol.
Construction has started on a cellulosic ethanol plant in Italy which will produce 13 million gallons of ethanol a year from Arundo Donax, a giant reed which can reach 30 feet in height and which is classified as invasive by California.
Much as we need alternative fuels, using amounts of crop land to grow plants for fuel rather than for food, is not environmentally sound, especially not when that plant is invasive.
Producing ethanol from plant, wood, and animal waste is certainly worthwhile. But using cropland to produce it, in addition to using large amounts of water and fertilizer, leads to high food prices as well as hunger in the Third World.