Southern Minnesota’s biofuel push

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by Trent Wells | June 11, 2009 • Minnesota is already one of the leading biofuel producers in America thanks to ethanol and soon it may have another biofuel with even greater potential, prairie grass. The Nature Conservancy in Minnesota , the University of Minnesota and various soil and water districts in Southern Minnesota are joining together to produce the prairie grass biofuel from 300 acres of native or restored prairie. Their goal is to determine the proper price and quantity for future private prairie grass production.

Hindsight is the official blog of Minnesota 2020. Hindsight gives the run down on the news that jumps out at us on the issues that matter. Often times these stories show us how much further we need to go to have the progressive policy realized in Minnesota.

According to a University of Minnesota study, diverse mixtures of prairie grass on infertile land are able to produce 51 percent more energy per acre than ethanol from high quality farmland. Since prairie grass biofuel can produce high amounts of energy from low quality soil, Minnesota’s high quality soil can be devoted to food not energy production. The study also estimated that prairie grass grown on degraded soil around the world could account for 13 percent of the world’s petroleum consumption and 19 percent of the electricity usage.

The prairie grass will be turned into electricity by a new biomass power plant in Shakopee. But biofuels’ potential does not stop with electricity, they can also be used to create syngas. Unfortunately, prairie grass cannot compete against petroleum on its own yet. The current support from the state and local governments needs to continue while the industry gains its footing.

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