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Agave Ethanol Could Replace Petrol Without Displacing Food Crops

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In recent years, those voices saying that using corn crops to produce biofuels is a bad idea are increasingly common. Taking into account the concentration of carbon emitted into the atmosphere and the high prices of grain, many people said that corn ethanol proved to be worse than oil.

The agave plants nevertheless proved that they could replace petrol and grow without displacing food crops.

“Agave has a huge advantage, as it can grow in marginal or desert land, not on arable land, and therefore would not displace food crops,” said Oliver Inderwildi from the University of Oxford.

Often found in Mexico or southern and western United States, this succulent plant used to distillate tequila, proved its potential as a crop that is adaptable to future climate change. ” In a world where arable land and water resources are increasingly scarce, these are key attributes in the food versus fuel argument, which is likely to intensify given the expected large-scale growth in biofuel production,” added Andrew Smith, a plant scientist at the University of Oxford.

With 85g of carbon dioxide for each megajoule of energy, corn ethanol was far surpassed by agave-ethanol with only 35 g/MJ. The only competitor for agave-ethanol is the ethanol made from sugar cane in Brazil. It emits only 20g/MJ, but as researchers say, it is very hard to grow outside Brazil because of the special soil and water requirements.

The Australians are already trying to get biofuel from Agave, but those abandoned places in Africa or Mexic containing it could also be used for biofuel production. Even so, researchers say that they have a lot of work to do yet. Along with these advances in biofuel production we also need more efficient engines and more electric cars.

At some point in the future we will have to carefully choose which land is for food and which is for fuel. “Biofuels will not be enough without changes on the demand side too, as we don’t have enough land for both fuels and food”.

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