Grassoline? TN Hopes to Fuel Up on Switchgrass

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Lawmakers in Tennessee are hoping to develop a cost effective way to turn switchgrass into ethanol to fuel automobiles, thereby making the Volunteer State a pioneer in the global fuel market.

It's an idea that could one day reduce America's dependence on foreign oil.

"This is a crop that fell into our lap," said Kim Black of the Color Wheels Farm.

Switchgrass is native to Tennessee and pretty much grows without much care. Researchers say it is much more resistant to drought than corn and produces about twice the yield per acre than corn.

The state is recruiting farmers to help produce the crop with the goal of turning it into biofuel.

Farmers Kim and Brad Black are encouraged about the financial possibilities of the project.

"It feels good going to bed at night knowing you have a payday at the end of the year," Kim said.

Gov. Bill Haslam recently got a first hand look at the process of making ethanol out of switchgrass.

"So how many tons would we produce domestically, do you know?" he asked during the tour.

Haslam sees the switchgrass initiative as a way to help reduce the country's dependency on foreign oil.

"If we can produce a product where we're not subject to the vagaries of the oil market, it's a clean product that's domestically available. That's a huge win for us," the governor explained.

Farmers are hopeful about the potential fuel boon for the state.

"It's a bridge between feeding the world and feeding ourselves," Kim Black said.

Right now, switchgrass is being converted to biofuel only on an experimental basis. Commercial production is expected to start next year.

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Charlene  Aaron

Charlene Aaron

CBN News Reporter

Charlene Aaron serves as a general assignment reporter and helps anchor for the CBN News Channel.  Follow her on Twitter @CharNews and "like" her at