Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Alternative Energy

Like most people (save oil executives, perhaps), I am very interested in alternative energies. It is sometimes disheartening to see renewable energy shunned in favor for petroleum products for energy needs. With the infrastructure already created to use oil and gas, renewable or alternative energies can't simply be as good as oil, but instead must be much better than oil, in order to be adopted. For that reason I am really excited about some scientific research just released that shows that low input high diversity (LIHD) native grassland perennials can produce a much better return than corn or soybeans in creating energy. The article is in Science, so you may not be able to see it, as it is restricted access. However, the gist of the research is that when a broad variety of native grasslands are planted in agriculturally degraded lands, they can produce over three times as much energy than corn or soybean derived energy products. What is even better is that this grassland biofuel cycle puts carbon back in the ground, so that the entire process actually reduces greenhouse gases. I don't know how much is spent on finding oil each year or transporting it to the places that need it, but these scientists have essentially shown that you can take a barren piece of land, plant a bunch of grasses on it, leave it without irrigation or fertilization, and in result reduce greenhouse emissions and get a (big) net positive production of energy. How cool is that?

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