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Giant Reed as Biofuel Source: Miracle or Disaster?


The renewable fuels industry sees the giant reed (Arundo donax) as a miracle biofuel plant due to its fast-growing and drought-resistant features that it easily thrives in poor soil, rendering it as a low-maintenance renewable energy source.

On the other hand, environmentalists and scientists deem the giant reed as yet another disaster like other invasive plants such as the kudzu vine and the purple loosestrife. They also have extended their concerns to the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Energy, strongly suggesting them to disapprove the commercial planting of giant reed.

California, Nevada, and Texas have banned this plant as noxious weed, crowding out native plants and consuming most of the water.

For Biofuels Center of North Carolina in Oxford, the giant reed is the answer to their “10 years, 10%” goal, which aims to produce 10% share of biofuel by 2017. They have researched different plants that are potentially capable of producing biofuels, but none of them met the capabilities of giant reed.

The researchers also claim that the giant reed is incomparable with the unmarketable kudzu, and that they could control the growth of giant reeds in their planned 50-acre plantation.

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