In the quest for economically viable cellulosic ethanol, switchgrass has garnered attention as a hardy, low-cost energy crop. While cellulosic ethanol is still agreed to produce emissions benefits over corn-based ethanol, and while the adaptability of switchgrass to different growing conditions remains one of its virtues, some farmers who have grown switchgrass say the crop's cost of production can be considerably more than corn.
While the Energy Department has specified the target production cost for corn at $35 per ton, farmers in
Regardless, Mark Downing, a bioenergy market analyst with the Energy Department, says in the article that "There's no $35-a-ton switchgrass."
"That's going to be really tough, to get a farmer to get out of corn and produce switchgrass," he says. Some of this has to do with
Cellulosic ethanol production, whether from switchgrass, cornstalks, or wheat straw, results in considerably lower greenhouse gas emissions than corn-based ethanol production - 90%, by the estimation of a study by the
The trick remains finding an economically viable process.