Harvesting a new kind of fuel

  • Article by: DAVID SHAFFER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 10, 2011 - 2:48 PM

An Iowa town is getting ready for what could be the nation's first cellulosic ethanol plant. Farmers are learning to harvest cornfield biomass to feed it.

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thefatcatAug. 6, 1110:17 PM

I really hope they can make this work!

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ruphinaAug. 7, 11 8:32 AM

"The residue, which used to lie on the ground and rot, has become a money crop for the next generation of biofuel." It didn't "rot", it decomposed back into the soil as nutrients to feed the next crop. That nutrient loss will have to be replaced with fertilizer. When are we going to figure out that nothing is free? Bill G.

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ruphinaAug. 7, 11 8:42 AM

thefatcat- "we" is certainly the operative word, as "we" have already contibuted $105M from the feds and the 38% subsidy from the state (an open-ended commitment). just to top off the "we" theme, the company wants a national 15% ethanol mandate, because they know darn well that the many individuals forced to pay the "we" factor would never pay for ethanol voluntarily. Bill G.

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thefatcatAug. 7, 1111:13 AM

Bill G....everything is subsidized.

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rolflindyAug. 7, 11 2:09 PM

Right on, Bill G. Each ton of shredded stover contributes nitrogen potassium, and Phosphorous to the soil. Scoping up that stover exposes the soil to erosion. Cellulosic ethanol has been in development for nearly 200 years, with little result. That's why POET and others need all that taxpayer money.

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rolflindyAug. 7, 11 2:11 PM

Fatcat, don't hold your breath. It hasn't worked since the Germans started working with it in the late 1800s.

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mowjo1Aug. 7, 11 3:01 PM

Most of the farmers I know bale the cornstalks and chaff and use it as bedding for their animals. It then gets spread on the field and is used as natural fertilizer. It decomposes into the sol and is far less expensive than synthetic fertilizers. It would be great if this did work but I smell another subsidized boondoggle here for a few farmers. Prove that it can be viable before investing tens of millions into something that has little to no value and has to be subsidized by the taxpayers.

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ruphinaAug. 7, 11 9:54 PM

I like the old fashioned way of converting the corn residue to a useful product. After you combine the corn, you let the cows in to eat the leftovers and fertilize the field the old fashioned way. Oh, I forgot- most farmers decided livestock was way too much work; you know- all that hay baling and fence upkeep and stuff. So they took down the fences, bulldozed the old farmsteads, turned the old creeks and drainage ditches into 8" diameter underground drain tile and plowed over all of it, even 2 rows into the roadside ditch. Now thier only option is to market corn to the hilt and hope the government keeps propping them up with ethanol subsidies, foreign food givaways, mandated ethanol usage, and of course protectionism from cheaper sources of ethanol like Brazilian sugar cane. Bill G.

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mikkoAug. 10, 1111:50 AM

"most farmers decided livestock was way too much work; you know- all that hay baling and fence upkeep and stuff." Most farmers aren't farming anymore because you can't make money being a real farmer. I don't know any farmers in my area that took down fences and bulldozed farmsteads. I do know quite a few that stopped farming because they went broke though.

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fish60Aug. 10, 1112:50 PM

I'm glad to hear they can recycle the water and acids. It would be better if corn ethanol plants were required to recycle their water too. Instead of corn stover we should be replanting the prairies with tall grass prairie plants that could be cut in the fall. That requires far less inputs, cleans runoff instead of polluting it and rebuilds the soil.

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