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Grassoline

Originally published in Green Country, Issue 131(Apr 2018)
Author: Green Power

Energy has long been a controversial topic. It is an issue of the environment, of national security and even of conflicts between countries. In recent decades, biofuels - extracted from crops such as corns and sweet canes - have surfaced as a potential solution for dealing with the energy crisis. However, the competition for arable land raises food prices and worsens food shortages. What is more, greenhouse gas emissions from the refining of biofuels, it turns out, are not as little as expected.

A second generation of biofuels have now emerged - "grassoline". The wider choice of raw materials, including rapidly growing grasses, agricultural waste (such as straw) and even wood waste, allows more potential of the grassoline.

The advantages of utilising wood and agricultural waste are that supply is stable and recycling cost is low. Grasses, on the other hand, can be grown on marginal land that is otherwise not in use, or even on land polluted by heavy metals. This way, competition with arable land is avoided. Take the United States for example: it is estimated that there may be more than 1.3 billion tonnes of raw materials per year, sufficient to produce 360 billion litres of grassoline, or the equivalent of half of the vehicle fuel demand of the whole country.

As of now, grassoline seems rather promising. However, like the first-generation biofuels, we may encounter unexpected problems in future development. With the incessant quest for energy for human activities, the earth can hardly face the consequences of the massive use of energy - even when seemingly lowly grasses can help fulfill our energy consumption. To genuinely solve the energy crisis, we must make reducing our energy footprint the top priority.

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Photo from Pixabay

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