If ethanol and other bio-fuel production is necessary plus, it can be made economically viable, then is switchgrass a better choice than corn.
Can a win-win situation be generated by private companies gaining the use of the medians and shoulders of the many 1,000's of miles of the Interstate and Primary highway system throughout the USA to grow the switchgrass. A.) the harvesting would ubiquitous rather than regional, B.) it could be used as an alternative to the current taxpayer funded maintenance of these areas and C.) prime farm ground can, once again, be used to grow corn and other feed grains for food uses.
• switchgrass requires little to no fertilizer
• any fertilizer needs could be provided via various, existing waste streams
• tolerates poor soil conditions
• being a perennial it may only need replanting every few years
• converting current plant growth to switchgrass with minimum effort
• saving islands of current plant growth to break up huge areas of nothing but switchgrass
• replacing Federal and State funded maintenance of the highway medians and shoulders with private maintenance and harvesting
• what would be the minimum requirements for maintenance...is it currently spelled out?
• bidding for the rights to use State and Federal land...what would be the basis of the bid?
• are there FHWA and State laws, rules and regulations that would require a serious re-write or legislation to allow this activity to proceed?
• new legislation should not include "sunset" clauses that would bring a viable industry to a halt.
• could private companies make a reasonable profit?
• encourage the use of local farmers to harvest the switchgrass for collection by processors
• use existing farm equipment designs
• new, specific equipment designs
• what uses are there for the residue material so there is no waste stream created?
• encourage joint ventures of numerous companies with each being able to take something away from the raw material for processing into other materials.
• tax relief beyond the transfer of maintenance to a profit making business
• excess funds, if any, set aside for non-reoccurring public projects...no ongoing, mandated programs to be funded
• must financially stand on its own...no government subsidies
• placement of digester facilities to minimize transportation costs
• are portable digester facilities viable...should they be considered over or in conjunction with fixed facilities?
• design the digester facilities to be able to take various raw materials, like farm animal manure, so when switchgrass is not available bio-fuels can continue to be generated.
• more than one crop per year be harvested in some parts of the USA.
• use bio-fuel from switchgrass to power all harvesting equipment
• expand the planting and harvesting of switchgrass from reclaimed lands such as open-pit mines and closed landfills as a fuel source and a soil stabilizer
• is switchgrass the best choice and should this idea be limited to switchgrass?