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Daily Telegraph: Plants can give us power

By Steve Gehrke
(Filed: 17/06/2006)

Concern in America over a looming oil crisis has intensified interest in different energy sources, in particular bio-fuels.

Ethanol – a fuel produced from crops rather than oil – is experiencing an unprecedented boom. In Brazil, most cars run either purely on ethanol or on a “gasohol” mixture with fossil fuels.

According to one poll, 78 per cent of Americans support increasing the use of ethanol in the US, where it has mainly been extracted only from corn.

Now the Department of Energy and industrial partners are working to extract ethanol from the most common organic compound on earth, cellulose, which is found in common vegetation.

Switchgrass, which grows up to 12ft tall, is one example of a crop that could produce bio-fuel. Fossil fuels take carbon from the ground and release it into the atmosphere as the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. But, as a plant, switchgrass will not add to greenhouse gases when used as fuel.

Among a string of new alternative energy ventures, officials in Texas have announced plans for America’s largest off-shore wind farm. To the north, Canada is helping Shell explore an alternative fuel in oil sand.

Fuelling the American dream 

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