NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


January 14, 2008

Switchgrass is better than corn when it comes to producing ethanol, according to a report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

After researching how switchgrass is grown, harvested and converted into ethanol, the federal Agricultural Research Service's Ken Vogel found that the stiff, cellulose-rich crop uses fewer resources.

Why is this important?

  • Critics long have complained that producing ethanol from corn consumes too much fossil fuel; this report shows that producing ethanol from switchgrass requires less fuel.
  • The demand on Texas' water resources would decrease if our farmers planted switchgrass instead of corn.

Other reasons:

  • Food prices could improve; the fever to grow corn for ethanol has squeezed how much corn gets grown for the dinner table.
  • The news should give investors an incentive to build facilities that turn switchgrass into ethanol; some money folks are getting cold feet about corn-based ethanol, so here's the shove they need.
  • This report gives President Bush another reason to veto the farm bill Congress will send him soon; a veto of the corn-friendly legislation may force Congress to invest more in researching how best to turn switchgrass into ethanol.

The next time politicians start jawing about ethanol, remember: Switchgrass makes more sense, says the Dallas Morning News.

Source: Editorial, "A better ethanol; Switchgrass trumps corn for making ethanol," Dallas Morning News, January 14, 2008; based upon: M. R. Schmer et al., "Net energy of cellulosic ethanol from switchgrass," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, January 7, 2008.

For study:


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