Interest in renewable forms of
energy has increased due to concern for the future supply of fossil
fuels, the negative impacts of burning fossil fuels on air quality,
and the desire to support local agriculture. Although considered a global
issue, utilizing switchgrass as a biofuel is a significant local development.
Clemson University's switchgrass
website focuses on these topics:
research was made possible by a donation from Ernst Conservation Seeds.
Crops such as corn and soybeans are currently being used to produce
biofuels. Scientists are exploring ways warm-season grasses (such as switchgrass,
Panicum virgatum) can be used for making ethanol from plant cellulose,
for raw material in coal-fired electric generation facilities, and/or
for making synfuels. Compared with other plant species, ethanol made from
perennial warm-season grasses can result in:
- less energy needed for production,
- a reduction in greenhouse gases,
- less potential for agrichemical pollution,
- crop production on poorer soils,
- less displacement of land for food production or loss of biodiversity
through habitat destruction,
- fewer environmental impacts.
Clemson University scientists, in collaboration with USDA-ARS
researchers, are initiating studies that will maximize production of native
warm-season grasses under the climatic, soil, and socio-economic conditions
encountered by farmers and other landowners in South Carolina.