The Global View

China: turning crop stalks into biofuels

872214_dry_grass.jpgCHINA WATCH The price of food in China is unbearably high at the moment, so making corn into energy is no longer a good idea. What about the leftover stalks from crops?

China’s eleventh five-year plan encourages the development of bio-electricity plants to turn stalks into energy. The cost of turning the stuff into one ton of ethanol is 1000 yuan (about $128) lower than the same ethanol made by foodstuff, according to people.com [Chinese language link].

This is a smart move that will bring at least three benefits: 1) reducing a large amount of pollutant emissions because Chinese farmers have the habit of burning stalks after harvests, 2) reducing consumption of other energy resources, as stalks can be turn into energy, and 3) increasing farmers’ incomes from selling stalks, which otherwise would have been burnt (subsequently polluting the air).

As to the supporting technology, China made breakthrough in turning stalk into biofuel in 2006. Professor Guo Qingxiang, an expert who had worked in this project, said that more than 700 million tons of stalk and chaff are left over from harvest every year; traditionally they were simply burnt.