Quiz of the day: if I mention a pericarp, endosperm, tip cap and germ, what am I talking about?
If you guessed a corn, you’d be right. Those little kernels are becoming increasingly valuable as corn is converted to ethanol. Corn futures jumped from about $4.25 a bushel around Christmas to more than $5.50 although were settling back this morning as traders took profits.
So I wonder if grass clippings could be produce ethanol and apparently they can just like sorghum, wheat, potato skins and rice. And still others like Bluefire Ethanol are using raw materials like urban trash, cellulose and wheat straws. Maybe anyone can do this including homeowners.
Alas, there is a buzz about home ethanol production, but turning my grass clippings into energy isn’t going happen any time soon. Consider the daunting statistic that to produce 328 gallons of Ethanol require 7,100 pounds of grain, according to EcoHolistic.com. Add on the energy – 131,000 BTUs for one gallon of ethanol that itself only yields 77,000 BTUs - to ferment the sugars in corn mash and the economics get worse. The Renewable Fuels Association has a good explanation and accompanying video on how ethanol is made from corn. It’s not a trivial process. Still, there is no shortage of ethanol companies and associations lobbying on its behalf.
That said, I can’t help but think about all the heat that comes from collected grass clippings faithfully dumped in the same spot. Indeed, two high schools students from Nebraska have used grass clippings in combination with switch and Indian grasses. (Environmentalists urge homeowners to leave grass clippings where they are and recycle them back in to the lawn).
Just to make sure, I checked Amazon to make sure I did not overlook any home stills for making ethanol. They aren’t any yet although there’s plenty of ethanol books including one on how to set up a home still. And there stills you can buy. I found one for $899 from BeUtilityFree, Inc. complete with permit forms. Be careful!