May 13, 2008

If I hear the phrase ‘miracle crop’ one more time …

I’m going to punch a credulous reporter right in the nose. I see sorghum is now the miracle crop du jour, now that the bloom has worn off ethanol and has never yet affixed itself to cellulostic ethanol, algae blooms, or hard copies of minutes from Dick Cheney’s Energy Task Force.

Yes, sorghum is versatile. And yes, Texas grows a fair amount of it.

BUT. … just a few caveats about this “miracle crop.”

First, it has to face the same competition for acreage as the four grains more commonly grown than it.

Second, sorghum as ethanol needs energy return on energy investment, or EROEI, research, something famously NOT done on corn for ethanol 30 years ago.

The story claims sorghum for ethanol has an EROEI four times better than corn and in the neighborhood of sugarcane. We’ll see. The same paragraph mistakenly or uninformedly imputs an EROEI of 2 to corn, when 1 is the correct answer.

Then, you have this line of gibberish:
Unlike corn, sweet sorghum is not in high demand in the global food market, so its use in biofuel production would have little impact on food prices and food security, International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics said.

Well, it IS used as livestock feed. No, there’s no sorghum flour to hit more than a buck a pound at the supermarket, but there is beef to get more expensive. And, if sorghum for ethanol pushes aside corn, then it stays pricey.

And, per Wiki, here’s another problem: Commercial-grade sorghum uses a lot of nitrogen.

Hell, for that matter, Johnson grass is a member of the sorghum genus. There’s plenty of that here in Texas. Why bother with grain sorghum for fuel?

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