Agricultural Research Service (ARS) chemist Colleen M. McMahan has begun using the desert shrub Guayule as a new source for ethanol biofuel at the ARS’s research center in Albany.
In the past, Guayule has been used in the production of latex gloves, medical devices and other “in-demand” natural rubber products but now, as a result of the research done by the ARS, Guayule is turning out to be a promising candidate for green energy.
The advantage of using Guayule biofuels over other biofuel sources, corn ethanol for example, is partly due to the fact that Guayule is not a staple food supply, but it is also advantageous because the plant is already being processed for its rubber-rich latex coating.
In order to glean energy from the plant, all that is needed is to process the Bagasse, or vegetation that’s leftover after the latex has been harvested. When processed, the Bagasse produces an amount of energy comparable to the energy released with the use of charcoal: 8,000- 9,000 Btu per pound.
Guayule has many characteristics that make it an efficient biofuel. Guayule’s Bagasse is available year round and thrives in desert ecosystems where many other food source and biofuel crops would not survive. It requires little to no upkeep in terms of herbicides and pesticides, so it is already environmentally friendly. Finally, It has a relatively short 1.5-2 year maturation period; this means it can be harvested for energy approximately 2 years after planting.
Discussion question: Do you think Guayule could replace corn ethanol in the future?
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