Electricity from Biomass More Efficient than Ethanol

A new study by researchers at the University of California, Merced suggests that using biomass to create electricity to power cars could be more efficient than using the same biomass to create ethanol to power cars.
May 11, 2009, 8am PDT | Tim Halbur
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"In the study, Campbell, along with Christopher Field, director of the department of global energy at the Carnegie Institution and David Lobell of Stanford University, the scientists found that biomass converted into electricity produced 81 percent more transportation miles and 108 percent more emissions offsets compared to ethanol.

In other words, said Campbell, vehicles powered by biomass converted into electricity 'got further down the road' compared to ethanol. As a result, Campbell continued, 'we found that converting biomass to electricity rather than ethanol makes the most sense for two policy-relevant issues, transportation and climate.'

The scientists based their study on two criteria: miles per area cropland and greenhouse gas offsets per area cropland. In both cases, scientists considered a range of feedstock crops, focusing primarily on corn and switchgrass and four vehicle types: small car, midsize car, small SUV and large SUV. Switchgrass is a perennial grass native to North America and is a good feedstock crop to grow as biomass because it is resistant to many pests and plant diseases and it is capable of producing high yields with very low applications of fertilizer."

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Published on Thursday, May 7, 2009 in UC Merced
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