Friday, June 13, 2008

Sorghum in Place of Corn and Cane

Sorghum can provide bio-alcohols by multiple routes. Sweet sorghum contains sugars that can be fermented directly. Grain sorghum produces starches that can be converted to fermentable sugars similarly to maize starches. And the prolific cellulosic fibre in sorghum provides a plentiful cellulosic feedstock for newer cellulose-to-bioalcohol processes.
"Currently, feedstock for commercial ethanol production is about 95 percent from corn grain and about 4 percent from sorghum grain," Wang said. "Grain sorghum is a reasonable feedstock for ethanol and could make a larger contribution to the nation's fuel ethanol requirements.

"Due to climate variability and continuing decline of water resources, utilization of dry land to grow sorghum and forage sorghum is critically important to ensure available energy resources and sustainable economic development. Sorghum requires 40 percent less water than corn to grow and can be produced in the semiarid regions of the nation and the world," he said.

Major sorghum-producing states include Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. Sorghum outperforms corn on dry land. However, Wang said that sorghum has been underused for industrial applications, especially for bioenergy. He said there has been little research conducted on performance of grain sorghum for ethanol, especially on sorghum biomass - stalks and leaves - for biofuel production.
Al Fin is famous for saying: ethanol is for drinking, not for fuel. But given the high price for gasoline and diesel, even Al Fin is amenable to compromise on this point. In the long run, butanol and bio-gasoline make better fuels than ethanol. And neither butanol nor bio-gasoline are worth very much as beverages.

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