Ever since the promise of grain ethanol has been smashed and stepped on by making the problems with the environment worse, people have been on the lookout for more and better ways of producing ethanol (alcohol) to fuel our vehicles and for many other machines that needs oil products as fuel. Bio diesel, solar, wave, wind and other alternative technologies that would allow us to generate energy for our electricity needs are all in the spotlight and is finally getting the funding it needs for proper development.
Most alternative technologies are still in need of much improvement to maximize their potential while some like grain ethanol needs more research and from that line comes new studies that algae and grass are showing to be better sources of ethanol for our fuel needs. Switch Grass, which is a native American plant has more energy stored within it pound per pound compared to grains (mainly corn and soy). The only problem is that there is not much in terms of infrastructure or bio-reactors that can turn cellulose fibers into ethanol unlike grain ethanol which has gotten an early head-start. The costs are also higher that with conventional ethanol bio reactors but the US Department of Energy is willing to invest $50 million for six experimental plants that would hopefully establish a base for cellulosic bio reactor technologies making it more feasible and cheaper for future generations as oil supplies dwindle and prices go higher.
These cellulosic bioreactors can also use other plant waste materials such as corn husks, grain shells, sugarcane waste and other plant based materials to produce ethanol that is better and friendlier to the environment than current technologies.
Source : Scientific American