Next Article in Journal
Virtual Sustainability
Previous Article in Journal
The Baleen Whales’ Saving Grace: The Introduction of Petroleum Based Products in the Market and Its Impact on the Whaling Industry
Previous Article in Special Issue
The Sustainability of Organic Grain Production on the Canadian Prairies—A Review
Article Menu

Export Article

Open AccessArticle
Sustainability 2010, 2(10), 3158-3194;

A Probabilistic Analysis of the Switchgrass Ethanol Cycle

Department of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering, The University of Texas at Austin, TX 78712, USA
Received: 24 August 2010 / Revised: 26 September 2010 / Accepted: 29 September 2010 / Published: 30 September 2010
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Renewable Agriculture)
Full-Text   |   PDF [849 KB, uploaded 24 February 2015]   |  


The switchgrass-driven process for producing ethanol has received much popular attention. However, a realistic analysis of this process indicates three serious limitations: (a) If switchgrass planted on 140 million hectares (the entire area of active U.S. cropland) were used as feedstock and energy source for ethanol production, the net ethanol yield would replace on average about 20% of today’s gasoline consumption in the U.S. (b) Because nonrenewable resources are required to produce ethanol from switchgrass, the incremental gas emissions would be on average 55 million tons of equivalent carbon dioxide per year to replace just 10% of U.S. automotive gasoline. (c) In terms of delivering electrical or mechanical power, ethanol from 1 hectare (10,000 m2) of switchgrass is equivalent, on average, to 30 m2 of low-efficiency photovoltaic cells. This analysis suggests that investing toward more efficient and durable solar cells, and batteries, may be more promising than investing in a process to convert switchgrass to ethanol. View Full-Text
Keywords: cellulose; yield; conservation law; GHG emissions; monte carlo cellulose; yield; conservation law; GHG emissions; monte carlo

Figure 1

This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).

Share & Cite This Article

MDPI and ACS Style

Patzek, T.W. A Probabilistic Analysis of the Switchgrass Ethanol Cycle. Sustainability 2010, 2, 3158-3194.

Show more citation formats Show less citations formats

Related Articles

Article Metrics

Article Access Statistics



[Return to top]
Sustainability EISSN 2071-1050 Published by MDPI AG, Basel, Switzerland RSS E-Mail Table of Contents Alert
Back to Top