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08/14/2015 Business gets done at AREDay summit in Snowmass

Business gets done at AREDay summit in Snowmass

To read article click here->  Aspen Times

David Blume, CEO of Blume Distillation, left, signs an agreement with representatives of biofuels company Byogy as American Renewable Energy ...

10/11/2012 Replacing alcohol for gas would lower prices and create 26 million jobs

Examiner: GAS OCTOBER 11, 2012


On Oct. 10, ecological biologist David Blume appeared as a guest on the Coast to Coast AM radio show to speak on the wonders of using alcohol as a fuel to replace gasoline. During his two hour long interview with host George Norry, Blume reports that by simply switching from gasoline to alcohol as an energy source, it would instantly halve the cost of automobile fuel to the American consumer, and create an industry that would bring 26 million permanent jobs to the economy.

George Noory: Worldwide? Are they relying on ethanol?

David Blume: There's this little country down in Latin American called Brazil. It's almost as big as the United States... just enormous. And, they don't import any oil there... they don't need to. Because, they make alcohol, and 95% of all new cars made in Brazil are made to run on both alcohol and gas, and pretty close to all the cars in Brazil are able to run on both.

And the reason is, typically in most years alcohol is half the price of most gasolines. People want to use whatever is cheaper, either alcohol or gasoline. But there's a huge effect, and we need to pay attention to this in our country. There is over a million union sugar cane workers in Brazil that produce the sugar cane for fuel. It's the most stable agricultural employment in that country, and in the United States, if we replaced all of our gasoline with alcohol, which we can do, we would recover 26 million jobs, many more than were lost during the Bush economic debacle. - Coast to Coast AM, Oct. 10

10/24/2010 Ecologist touts alcohol as cars? future fuel


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University guest lecturer’s book and company offer local farmers ways to make alternative fuel

By Sarah Walters | News reporter

"Alcohol can be a gas."

These five words are the title of Californian ecologist and entrepreneur David Blume's book and life's mission.

Blume travels around the country informing citizens of the downside of "Big Oil" and the potential for bringing back the original car fuel, alcohol.

Blume visited the University campus Friday to share his knowledge with Eugene community members, environmentalists and small business owners from local places such as SeQuential Biofuels.

"His whole idea is the decentralization of power and doing it in a way where all the waste ... is used back in the system," said Mel Bankoff, sustainability coordinator for Partners for Sustainable Schools of the Institute for Sustainability Education and Ecology.

Blume said he seeks to empower local communities and return control to farmers.

Blume Distillation is currently looking for investors in order to sell their stills that turn plants into alcohol fuel. By providing farmers and small business owners with these stills, Tom Harvey, Blume's vice president of marketing, said they could create jobs, and they do not give favoritism to people in power.

"I'm counting on individuals and small companies going out there and starting to make their own fuel," Blume said.

Blume said there are multiple benefits to switching to alcohol fuel – political, economical and social.

Alcohol was actually the first fuel used in cars, dating back to Henry Ford's era. When oil companies began taking over, leaders in the field started lobbying for prohibition and gradually pushed alcohol out of the market.

 "We have an incredible concentration of power at the corporate level," Blume said.

He said he wants to return money and power to farmers and citizens by selling them alcohol stills, vehicle conversion kits, and his 2007 book, "Alcohol Can Be a Gas!" with instructions on turning plants and farm waste into car fuel.

"We need the money back in our communities. We need to keep our farmers employed. We have to stop pouring money into these oil companies," Blume said during the lecture.

Blume contended that the reason more people are not using alternative energy is due to misinformation presented by the media and oil companies.

"The barriers are political, not technical," Blume said.

Blume argues that there have been many scientific advances that would enable a cleaner fuel model.

Newer cars with newer computers can handle 50 percent gasoline and 50 or more percent alcohol fuel.

Waste products, sewage and various types of plants like cat tails, beets, kudzu, kelp and mesquite can be turned into alcohol. Alcohol is simply water, carbon dioxide and sugar, Blume said.

Ethanol, the most common alcohol fuel, is a cleaner-burning fuel compared to gasoline and emits less carbon monoxide. Cities and states that switch to ethanol-blended fuel have better air quality compared to other cities and states, according to the International Institute for Ecological Agriculture website.

04/08/2010 Capitol Weekly - Personnel Profile: Daryl Hannah


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Personnel Profile

Personnel Profile: Daryl Hannah

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Daryl Hannah is best-known as an actress, made famous in classic 1980s films like “Blade Runner” and “Splash.” More recently, she’s been active on a number of political issues. We reached her recently on her way to an alternative fuels event. 


How did you get involved in the alternative fuels movement?
When I first learned about the possibility of not using petroleum, and that’s something we can all do now with very little or no modifications to your car, I was sold. I didn’t want to be a participant in the devastation, the havoc and mayhem and wars that the oil companies bring. It turns out biofuels are a great entre into the larger conversation of over-all ethical lifestyle choices and sustainability.

Biofuels have such amazing potential to be a very important part of the solution to the energy crises that we face, and if they’re not done correctly they’re just another problem. It’s really important that biofuels are grown, harvested and distributed in a mindful and ethical way. When people started becoming aware of biofuels, whether it was ethanol or biodiesel, all the people looking to get a fast cash return jumped in and started doing it in the most irresponsible way. They were chopping down rainforests, shipping over biofuels from Malaysia and the Amazon and boiling down vats of animals and doing all kinds of hideous practices.


Vats of animals?
Yeah, for bio diesel you can use fats. Rendered animals are fine, too, but you know it’s all kinds of really ludicrous ideas that brought a cash return but basically put a black mark on all bio fuels. Then a lot of people started wanting to throw the baby out with the bathwater and say “Forget about it, bio fuels are bad.”

But they still have the same promise they did in the first place. All biofuels are not created equal, but it is possible to do with both ethanol and biodiesel in an incredibly productive and solution-oriented way. You figure out what crops grow well in your region and actually produce tons of bio fuels in some previously environmentally degraded spots.  

There are so many different feedstock for both bio diesel and alcohol.  You can remediate sewage and grow either cattails or kelp or algae and brackish water, and it’s incredibly more productive than normal food crops. The types of crops that we have been traditionally using for these fuels aren’t necessarily the most productive. They’re either energy intensive or water intensive, but that’s just because we’re just trying to get a quick, short, fast return on preexisting crops to take advantage of something the way its already been done previously.


You drive a biodiesel car.

It’s a 1984 diesel El Camino. It’s probably the worst engine ever made, but it’s still running. I have a ten-gallon tank for biodiesel to start it up, and then I run it on straight veggie oil and I just use filtered oil from restaurants in my neighborhood. The biodiesel that I get is also made from waste grease. My ethanol car, my alcohol burner, is also a classic car. It’s the ’79 TransAm from “Kill Bill.”


You’ve become known for your activism in recent years, particularly after you appeared in the documentary “The Garden.” 
I’ve always thought that humanitarian issues, concerns about the welfare of other species and even our own human welfare, our environmental issues, are all interconnected.  At a certain point I realized I’ve always been kind of shy and I felt that the best most effective thing I could do is just to try to live by my beliefs.

But at a certain point, I think it’s crucial to step out of your comfort zone and add your voice to those who are fighting on behalf of the defenseless, to just lay your body down on the line in some cases and say, “No, this is insane, we won’t let this happen.” There have been some cases where just getting a little media attention for some of these issues has been really crucial.

Since I’ve been in a profession where that spotlight sometimes shines on me, I have the opportunity to take that light and shine it on other issues. I’ve been moved when I found out they’re blowing up Appalachian mountains for coal, and it’s a very small percentage of our coal and it’s very destructive and not necessary. I went and said, “What can I do to help stop it?” I actually believe that this will hit a tipping point this year and will hopefully be outlawed in the near future.


In other interviews you’ve mention that you believe you have Aspergers syndrome?
When I was very young I was diagnosed with what they thought was autism, but the more I learn about Aspergers the more it seems like maybe it was closer to that. It’s the same but it’s a little more functional, I guess.

That’s something I’ve defiantly been closely following, looking for a root cause, the issues of the aluminum products, the toxins in our pharmaceuticals, our foods. I think we really need to start tuning into our inner voice that says food is something grown from a plant that you don’t put poisons on. Same thing with our water, it’s why do we put fluoride and chlorine and bleach in our fresh water? This all comes back to preserving the foundation that all life is built on. Everything else should be against the freakin’ law.


Have you ever felt there were some advantages to having Aspergers?
I have a couple of things in my life that have been considered potential hindrances, but to me those things have always seemed to give you an extra perception or a more empathetic set of circumstances you have a little bit of a higher sensitivity to certain areas. It can definitely be a gift as much as it can be an obstacle.  


Tell me about your DH Love Life website
I started it a couple years ago as a portal for people to have access to inspiration, information goods and services. Whenever I learn something and I go “What? Why didn’t anyone ever tell me before?” I put it on there. It’s all information I get excited about and I want other people to know. It’s all based on ethical lifestyle choices.


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04/15/2010 Capitol Weekly - Author's Corner: David Blume

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Personnel Profile

Author's Corner: David Blume

Thursday, April 15, 2010

David Blume is the author of “Alcohol Can Be A Gas!” He started the company American Homegrown Fuel during the energy crisis in the late 70s, then wrote the first version of his book to accompany a documentary in 1983. He recently updated it. We reached him a couple weeks ago, when he was travelling to Sacramento with actor/activist Daryl Hannah to promote alcohol-based fuels.

Address the focus of this trip and why alcohol based fuels are important.
What we’re going to be talking about in Sacramento today is the fact that the EPA is taking an extra six months to study whether or not a raise from 10 percent alcohol to 15 percent alcohol would pose any harm to the environment. The oil companies flat out refuse to buy any more alcohol than is required by the state and federal government to mix with the gasoline, even if it’s cheaper than their own stuff. They’re limiting the alcohol they buy from farmers by hiding behind a 1980’s ruling that was specific approval for 10 percent alcohol. So in Minnesota or Kansas or Oregon these states that we want to put in 20 percent, they won’t do it because the federal law says 10 percent. It’s interesting, because it’s either 10 percent or 85 percent.

It can either be one or the other?
Yes, or less.  California only has 5.7 percent, but that’s going to 10 percent at the start of the year. Now the thing about this is to approve E85, the EPA did extensive massive testing because the oil companies fought it tooth and nail, and they proved that E85 is pretty much 80-90 percent less polluting than gasoline. We know that every bit of alcohol we put in cleans up the emissions more. So 20 years later, after all this is figured out, they have to study it all over again, they say.

There’s a sinister side to this. The alcohol fuel industry is on the ropes because of a combination of future speculators in the price of corn to the oil companies’ monopoly on the market for alcohol because the alcohol is almost all sold as a gasoline additive. Because we have only one customer, the oil companies, they tell you what they’re going to pay you. So with the market bottled up like that you have what they call a blend wall, so unless the state can mandate a higher amount of alcohol the oil companies will resist buying it. Alcohol and oil are deadly enemies, and yet alcohol sales are almost exclusively to oil companies. Now that’s changing. E85 is at 2,000 stations now across the country.

This upcoming year, all the Ford trucks are going to be E85-compatable. Everything from the half ton, to the three-quarter to the one and a half ton. Now the thing about the ruling that’s so screwy is that several million Americans that right now mix alcohol and gasoline at the pump, because any car out there today, can run fifty percent alcohol without any modifications whatsoever. As people discover that, say you’re in Michigan and you’re at the pump and alcohol is 1.71 a gallon and gas is 2.80, you’re pretty tempted to say, “Hey, lets go ahead and put some of that in my tank and see.” 

Why’s alcohol so much cheaper?
Because it’s not a fuel that ever runs out. Oil is a fuel that’s beginning to run out and as it becomes more scarce, it becomes more expensive. Alcohol is based on solar energy, carbon dioxide, water and sunlight making the carbohydrates that we make into alcohol.  So as long as we have water and sunlight and soil, we’ll have alcohol.

What about alcohol fuel being mostly made of corn? Are we really getting an energy or pollution advantage the way things are currently done?
The longtime opponent of alcohol fuel David Pimentel sat down with me in a discussion on tape and said straight up that corn grown properly is very energy positive. What that means is we take some of the byproducts from the alcohol fuel production and put them back on the fields and now we don’t need to buy more fertilizer. Even with oil-based fertilizers, alcohol is 67 percent positive on the return of energy for energy put in. The energy put in is also not oil, oil is what we’re running out of. So what goes in at the big alcohol plants is generally coal or natural gas, but that’s changing too. Several plants are using biomass, in other words corncobs, to fire the plants, and that dramatically increases the energy return. Sugar cane or corn with bio mass firing is eight to one in energy return for energy invested, including chemical fertilizer.  

Those old studies in the 80’s that say it takes more than you get out are even being repudiated by their authors. We’re looking at a 89 percent reduction in poisons, higher carbons, nitrous oxides, carbon monoxide. This is really important in cities because carbon monoxide is heavier than air and it settles in the artificial canyons of our downtowns. People are actually less able to absorb oxygen when there’s a lot of carbon monoxide in the air. In the Grand Canyon there have been deaths from all the boating and the carbon monoxide being trapped in the bottom of the canyon. Gasoline is not the right stuff to burn.

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May-June 2008 BioFuels Journal - Blume's Book Tells Why It's Needed, How to Make It

author or publications: 
Caryn Green
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Author Praises Ethanol

Blume’s Book Tells Why It’s Needed, How to Make It

Frank Zaworski, associate editor  - BioFuels Journal

If there could be a general manual for the world of ethanol, then Alcohol Can Be A Gas! Fueling an Ethanol Revolution for the 21st Century might be it.

This 594-page tome ($59), listed by Mother Earth News in its “Book for Wiser Living” series, presents the story of ethanol in a straight- forward and compelling fashion.

Author David Blume is executive director of the International Institute for Ecological Agriculture, the book’s publisher ( He developed the book over a 25-year period. With an inspiring introduction by R. Buckminster Fuller, Blume’s work provides rational responses to a number of the myths about ethanol that are continuously repeated in the mass media.

Blume explains why alcohol fuel is important, how it is made on a commercial scale, and how it can be made at home.

“This book is the distilled essence of the most pertinent information ever assembled in one place on alcohol fuel,” crows Blume in his introduction.

Blume’s prose, in addition to delivering the facts, is very entertaining as it burns with a mighty zeal for his subject.

Link to Biofuels Journal online (see page 98):

09/22/2009 Blue Planet Green Living - My 5: David Blume

author or publications: 
Caryn Green
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My 5: David Blume, Executive Director, International Institute for Ecological Agriculture

September 22, 2009 by Caryn Green 


August 26, 2009 by Caryn Green  


Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) asked David Blume to answer two questions we like to ask our interviewees. Blume is the  founder and Executive Director of the International Institute for Ecological Agriculture, author of Alcohol Can Be A Gas, and a frequent speaker at ecological, sustainability and agricultural conferences throughout the Americas. Following are his responses. — Publisher


David Blume, Founder and Executive Director of the Institute for Sustainable Agriculture. Photo: Courtesy David Blume

David Blume, Founder and Executive Director of the Institute for Sustainable Agriculture. Photo: Courtesy David Blume


BPGL: What are the five most important things we can do to save the planet?



  • Stop buying oil. Replace oil with ethanol. Ethanol is a clean-burning, high-octane fuel that sells for around $1.80 a gallon. You don’t even have to pay more to do the right thing.
  • Only buy organic products. Vote with your dollars to send the message that you’re not going to continue doing business as usual.
  • Figure out what is enough. Instead of more, more, more, decide how much materialism you’re going to engage in and stop consuming beyond what’s enough.
  • Grow at home.  Growing your own food is a tremendously political act. If everybody grew some of their own food, we could cut down on the amount that has to be transported.
  • Acknowledge that capitalism works best on a small local scale. Buy local products even if it costs more. Don’t spend your money so that the capital leaves your area forever. Localizing the economy takes down the whole multinational capitalist system.

Two Minutes with the President

BPGL: If you had two minutes to talk with President Obama, what would you say to him?

BLUME: We need to make a commitment to provide all our own energy from within our own borders in the next 10 years, on land and on sea, using solar, wind, and alcohol. If we accomplish that one goal, we could completely change the global perception of the U.S. from a giant, predatory parasite to an exporter of our own surplus energy.


David Blume
Founder and Executive Director
International Institute for Ecological Agriculture
Author, Alcohol Can Be A Gas

09/03/2009 Marquette County Tribune - Ethigas Means More Ethical Fuel Choices in Marquette County

author or publications: 
Kathleen McGwin
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MARQUETTE COUNTY TRIBUNE • September 3, 2009 Page 14


Ethigas means more ethical fuel choices in Marquette County


By Kathleen McGwin


Green Marquette County There are a lot of people out there in Marquette County who are thinking green and sustainable. Kathleen McGwin would like to tell their stories in the Marquette County Tribune. No matter how small or big, contact her at 297-9746 if you have a story about going green, restoring the land, or leaving a smaller footprint on our planet. We can all learn from each other.



If Scott Kempley and Joel Burbach, both Marquette County residents, have it their way, Kempley’s 2,000- acre farm will be self sustainable in 10 years and operating on ethanol fuel made in mint distillers using plant material grown on 35 acres of land. Sound impossible? Not according to Kempley and Burbach who have begun Ethigas Cooperative, which is exploring with vigor the possibility of producing ethanol using ideas based on ethanol expert and author David Blume’s work of revitalizing rural America with small production ethanol plants.


Blume recently won the American Corn Growers Association’s Truth in Agricultural Journalism award. The association said in presenting the award, “We presented our Truth in Agricultural Journalism award to Mr. Blume for his insight, integrity, and knowledge and for his courage to be unbiased, impartial, and honest in his commitment to families on the land. We encourage and support Mr. Blume’s efforts. He is doing good and vital work on behalf of farmers and the American populace.”


The expert who’s been interviewed on Public Radio and who is invited to seminars around the country was recently in Madison presenting a 2 day workshop that Kempley and Burbach attended. They invited him to Endeavor where he gave a copy of his book, Alcohol Can Be a Gas! to Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold after one of his listening sessions. The Marquette County men also donated a book to the Endeavor Library.


The Minnesota farmer and author extols rural revitalization in the United States as well as job creation and ending the dependence on foreign oil by building small ethanol production facilities in rural communities that would use not just corn, but other sustainable plant and waste material. Kempley and Burbach, long time friends, saw a natural connection to mint farmers who distill their crop on their farms. The distillers sit idle for much of the year and the men are studying how the mint distillers could be used to make ethanol during those down times.


Marquette County is the number 1 producer of peppermint,” said Kempley. “We grow 2 varieties of mint.”


Kempley also grows sod and potatoes. The small distilleries for ethanol that Blume proposes use materials besides corn. Some of the most efficient plant material in ethanol production are sugar cane, beets, sweet sorghum, potatoes, and cat tail tubers. “Cat tails are also a water filter,” said Burbach. “In Brazil they’re producing 10,000 gallons of ethanol from cat tails grown around a waste treatment plant. The plants are filtering the water and are a source of ethanol.” The men have hired a grant writer to research various funding sources that could be used to develop the cooperative and help mint farmers retrofit their mint distillers to accommodate ethanol production. They believe that it is possible that in 10 years Kempley can produce enough ethanol made from sugar beets and cat tails to replace 35,000 gallons of diesel fuel used on the farm. But that’s just the first step for Ethigas. They want other farmers and individuals to do the same and may someday even produce enough to have a pump that sells to others.


The use of alcohol or ethanol is a growing and still at times contentious business. Alcohol burns 98% clean, making it a more efficient and less polluting fuel. Kempley and Burbach both run their vehicles on 50% E 85 ethanol mix and 50% gas, more than the auto manufacturers recommend.


My car runs just fine on that mix,” said Burbach. “I lose 10% mileage, but the lower cost more than makes up for it and my car runs cleaner and more money stays in America.” Blume’s philosophy and work are a part of the International Institute for Ecological Agriculture (IIEA). The IIEA, with an international Board of Directors, promotes permaculture. The IIEA website at www.permaculture. com says, “Permaculture is the art and science of designing human beings’ place in the environment. Permaculture design teaches you to understand and mirror the patterns found in healthy natural environments. You can then build profitable, productive, sustainable, cultivated ecosystems, which include people, and have the diversity, stability, and resilience of natural ecosystems. Permaculture designs range from households to major agricultural enterprises and even entire bioregions.”


Kempley and Burbach are sold on using these ideas to become less dependent on foreign oil, more self sustainable, and to invigorate Marquette County’s rural community. “


Ethigas means ethical gas and that means alcohol,” said Burbach. “Alcohol produced locally with sustainable plant or waste material.”


If you want to learn more about Ethigas, contact Scott Kempley at 297-2653 or Joel Burbach at 297- 9593. To learn more about Alcohol Can Be a Gas! or David Blume go to




08/26/2009 Blue Planet Green Living - From Swamp to Gas Pump ? Cattails Take on New Role

author or publications: 
Caryn Green
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From Swamp to Gas Pump – Cattails Take on New Role

(Excerpts from an article first posted on

August 26, 2009 by Caryn Green Email: Site: About: See Authors Posts (2)  

 Caryn Green
Cattails add beauty to the landscape. Photo: Caryn Green


Cattails are among nature’s most primitive species. They were here when dinosaurs ruled. They kept baby Moses from floating down the Nile to a premature death. They’re ubiquitous, found in ditches the world over. Grown in clean water, they’re edible. Grown in wastewater, they remove pollutants from the sewage so it can be safely returned to the natural water cycle. In the process, cattails absorb the atmosphere’s increasingly abundant carbon dioxide to fuel photosynthesis, producing sugars and starches that can be converted easily, cleanly, and cheaply into alcohol used for biofuel.


Biofuels solve the same problems that petroleum fuel creates. Plants use the carbon dioxide they remove from the environment to grow. Harvested and converted to alcohol, they return that same energy when used as fuel. This is why corn has garnered a lot of attention as a source of biofuel. But corn-for-ethanol is problematic. Land devoted to growing fuel is land that can’t be devoted to growing food. And, unless it’s grown organically, corn is fertilized with materials that pollute our groundwater and contribute to global warming. Gas-powered tractors harvest it; gas-powered vehicles truck it to market. All this for a fuel source that yields – depending on which study you consult — 75 to 200 gallons per acre? There’s got to be a better way.


Whiskey, Biscuits, and Biofuels


 Caryn Green
Cattails are hard to eradicate and prevent shoreline erosion. Photo: Caryn Green


The same characteristics that have earned Typha latifolia some bad PR over the years make the common broadleaf cattail an excellent candidate for biofuel production: they’re aggressive and invasive. Once established, Typha is pretty tough to evict, making it effective in combating shoreline soil erosion. It is drought- and fire resistant. It’s able to thrive in both freshwater and brackish, moderately saline swamplands — out-competing other native species that can only live in one or the other. It’s tolerant of wide fluctuation in climatic conditions and water levels, as evidenced by its occurrence from the sub-Arctic to the tropics, and in areas of persistent drought or frequent flooding.


Cattails are often among the first species to gain a foothold in disturbed environments, even when they were not part of the existing vegetation. They were among the earliest plants to emerge after Mount St. Helens erupted. They’re amazingly prolific, propagating both by airborne seed and underground root growth. They don’t require planting or special treatment; they readily grow on unused land, drinking our garbage.


Ancient civilizations recognized the many uses of cattails: The Romans used them to make whiskey. Cattails were a staple of the Native American diet, and our indigenous populations used them for medicinal purposes, building materials — even to make dolls for the kids. More recently, the cattail’s potential as a food and fuel, building material, and source of paper pulp was cited more than 50 years ago, in a December 1955 Science News article. A New York Times article entitled “Cattail biscuits now” reported, “the starchy inner portion of the cattail rhizome makes an excellent flour”; the piece was dated August 8, 1920.


Bioremediation with Cattails


 Caryn Green
Cattails purify swampy water. Photo: Caryn Green


For some time now, cattails have been used to treat secondary sewage (the oxygen-depleted, nitrate-, ammonia-, and bacteria-laden sludge that remains in wastewater after solids are removed). In 1986, the city of Arcata , California built one of the world’s first sewage treatment wetland facilities. Today, approximately 500 communities are employing cattails in sewage treatment. Able to absorb solids and detoxify dissolved chemicals like mercury, cattails are ideally suited to the task of bioremediation: They even capture and eat organic bacteria through pores on the lower part of the plant.


But, so far, no community is taking the second step — that of harvesting the plants and converting them to ethanol. A cattail’s starch content would put a potato to shame. Its rhizomes — the stout, horizontal stems that grow just below the soil — can contain anywhere from 40–60 percent starch. There’s no general consensus on cattail ethanol yield — different studies using different methodologies have cited anywhere from 1000 to 2500 gallons per acre — but there is universal agreement that cattails represent enormous potential as a bioremediator and fuel source.


Cattail-for-Ethanol Advocates


David Blume, author of Alcohol Can Be a Gas and founder of the International Institute of Ecological Agriculture, consulted on the Arcata Marsh Project. He has been one of the leading advocates of alcohol fuel since the late 1970s.

“Of the 500 or so municipalities that are using cattails for sewage remediation, none are taking advantage of the cattails to process them into ethanol. The original plans for the cattail marsh in Arcata called for the treatment facility to make fuel from the cattail. And they built a test distillery, but by the time the marsh was up and running, gas prices had dropped and they didn’t follow through.”


Blume suggests one of those “the-problem-is-the-solution” remedies in Alcohol Can Be a Gas. “’How about using the roads to provide the fuel for the cars that use them?” Water gathers around roadsides, allowing runoff filled with toxins like herbicides, oil and antifreeze to be carried for miles downstream. “If each county were to cultivate a 5-foot wide strip of cattail on each side of only 1000 miles of county-maintained roads, boom mowers could shred and harvest up to three crops of cattail per year, producing in theory up to 61 billion gallons of fuel (40% of the U.S gasoline consumption — without using a single acre of farmland while also thoroughly detoxifying road runoff water. Planting energy crops in the nation’s unused median strips along divided highways would generate additional billions of gallons.”


 Caryn Green

Cattails can treat contaminated ground water and serve as a source for biofuel. Photo: Caryn Green




Growing Awareness, Growing Acceptance


Advocates like Blume...are finding support at all levels — from individuals with home distilleries to municipalities, to legislative bodies, to multinational corporations.


“We’ve been working with Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) to push forward legislation for small-scale ethanol production,” Blume told Blue Planet Green Living. Feingold introduced an amendment to the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 to further the adoption of technologies developed by the Department of Agriculture and to encourage small business partnerships in the development of energy through biorefineries. Blume is also encouraged by the introduction of a bill by Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Richard Lugar (R-IN) that calls for 50 percent of all light-duty vehicles manufactured for sale in the United States to be dual-fuel automobiles by 2011.


Ford Motor Company applauds the work being done by Blume and his people. The automaker has come forward with sponsorship money in support of his efforts. After all, Henry Ford never intended to burn petroleum-based fuel in his internal-combustion engine. His Model T ran on ethanol.


The cattail-for-ethanol movement got a huge boost from Congress last year. Overriding a veto from George W. Bush, they passed the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008. Sponsored by Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN), the bill called for lower tax credits for ethanol produced from corn and other feedstocks, while establishing a credit for production of biofuels from cellulosic matter, such as growing trees, perennial grasses, and agricultural and municipal waste.

In this context, cattails once again lead the way. Cellulose requires complex chemical processing to be converted into sugars and starches, which are then easily fermented into alcohol, while cattails are ready from the get-go.


Flex-fuel Cars Within Everyone’s Reach


Once all this clean, cool home-grown fuel is available, what will it take to adapt our cars to run on ethanol? Not much. Gasoline-burning vehicles require relatively minor software adjustments to the fuel intake program to be able to burn blended fuel.

“It costs about 50 bucks on the assembly line to convert a car to flex fuel,” Blume said. And the cost to convert an existing auto is only a few hundred. You can buy a kit on Blume’s website.


Blume looks forward to increased public recognition that flex-fuel cars are easily within everyone’s reach. Actress-activist Daryl Hannah is going to have one of the conversion kits installed on 9/28, amid, hopefully, lots of press coverage from outlets that do not typically report on environmental issues. Hannah is an ardent supporter of ethanol as fuel and will be at the forefront of a promotional effort to build public awareness on this issue.



 Caryn Green
The ubiquitous cattail has the potential to solve multiple environmental problems. Photo: Caryn Green


08/24/2009 Growing Magazine - Weathering the Economic Crisis

author or publications: 
Jenan Jones Benson - Growing Magaziine
Full Text: 

What does that mean for you?


It’s not news that the country is facing tough times economically. Commercial growers feel the pinch as well, but for the agricultural industry, the news isn’t all bad. Farmers, overall, may fare better than other occupational groups.

Buddy, can you spare a dime?


As of late March, business loans and credit were considered rare commodities by many, but growers reported that securing funds for their spring needs hasn’t been that difficult.

Tanya Miller, owner of Millican Produce in Millican, Texas, with her husband Steve King, says growers such as her who have established solid credit ratings shouldn’t have obstacles with loan approval. 

“We are expecting to apply for a loan [for expanding our greenhouse tomato operation] in the near future and have been told that we should not have any trouble because of our past history,” she says.

Nick Augostini, marketing specialist with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, agrees, adding that growers in his area continue to receive funding through both Farm Credit and the local banks. However, those institutions are reviewing applications more carefully and borrowers should anticipate closer monitoring during the loan’s term. 

“Lenders are a little more skittish,” says Dr. Anthony Yeboah, professor and chair of North Carolina A&T State University’s department of agribusiness, applied economics and agriscience education. “There is a general sense of uncertainty, a psychological cloud hanging over the future.”

That may mean that existing credit lines or terms may be altered, but it also signals opportunity. Historically low interest rates may benefit growers and enable some operations to expand.


Prices remain uncertain 

With oil prices continuing to fluctuate, budgeting for fuel, transportation, fertilizer and plastic seems to be a guessing game. In recent months, the market has had relief from last summer’s highly elevated costs. Recent cost declines don’t put producers at ease. However, continued moderation in fertilizer costs is anticipated and oil prices are rising with air temperatures at this writing. In mid-March, The Financial Times reported that Opec favored prices around $75 a barrel, but the group was hesitant at that time to cut production. In late March, prices ran approximately $20 below that goal.

Growers are uncertain as to what rewards their crops will bring this season. Coming off a year of high prices, the U.S. Department of Agriculture projects a 20 percent drop in 2009 farm income. Yeboah points out that produce consumption trends are likely to experience change, which isn’t a necessarily gloomy prediction for agriculture. If consumers abandon dining out, restaurant food requirements will drop, but those consumers may choose to purchase fresh produce to prepare at home. The demand for basic foodstuffs may see an upswing, to the detriment of prices for specialty items, and a movement toward more home gardening will figure into commercial growers’ profits as well. But, some growers believe sales and prices will remain steady. 

“If times were to get increasingly more difficult nationwide, I believe that people would cut back on spending money on so much food,” Miller says. “Consumers would look for bargains or seconds. If this does happen, farmers would feel the impact on their pocketbooks.”


Labor woes continue 

Augostini says that growers in the eastern North Carolina counties he serves have expressed ongoing concern about labor availability and costs. As of this writing, hourly wages for H2A workers have not been finalized, and it remains to be seen if the proposed decrease from $8.85 to $7.25 will be approved. (An increase to $9.35 also is possible.) Yeboah suggests that Americans faced with escalating unemployment rates may be more willing to take farm jobs, an outcome that Augostini views as unlikely.


Strategies to survive recessionary times

Farmer, ecologist and energy expert David Blume rightly points out that food is an essential item, but high input expenses and low market prices can make producing it financially risky for growers. How can farmers stay afloat during difficult times? 

Yeboah says growers shouldn’t hesitate to tap reputable agricultural credit sources, but doesn’t advise seeking other types of loans, and he urges producers to continue promoting the health benefits of fruits, nuts and vegetables. Miller encourages the consumer trend of seeking locally produced food.

New efficiencies may assist in producers remaining profitable. Augostini says a balanced and analytical approach will benefit farmers. Reviewing management and production procedures may yield ways to reduce costs without sacrificing quality. Look for crops that aren’t demanding of pricey inputs, yet offer high yields. Substituting lucrative crops for less profitable ones may be one way to stay in the black. In some cases, growers may reduce both acreage in production and employees, while others may increase their crops without taking on additional labor. Diversity and cooperating with neighboring farmers may be beneficial. For example, Augostini says several growers could coordinate their crops, allowing each participant to reduce their individual costs by growing a higher acreage of fewer distinct varieties.


Hope on the horizon 

Even in tough times, there are bright spots and new possibilities for innovative growers. Blume, a Californian who farms in Georgia, says the biofuels industry can be a significant boon for agriculture.

“There is opportunity in blending fuel and food production,” he adds. “If food prices drop, energy prices may not.”  

California citrus grower Lance Walheim says water availability is a major obstacle for his area.

Blume, author of “Alcohol Can Be a Gas” (, isn’t just talking about corn. Waste crops, such as frost-damaged fruit, can be converted into alcohol for fuel. Almonds are also valuable for energy in addition to nutritional purposes, as are many vegetable varieties. Even such “garbage” as grass and weed clippings can be converted into local, clean, inexpensive fuel. Substantial tax credits are being offered for building and operating alcohol plants.

“The next frontier for farmers is taking over the energy supply,” Blume adds. “That can save farm income.”

Renewable energy is also addressed in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Tax incentives for new renewable fuels offer diversified income opportunities for rural Americans. The stimulus legislation also provides expanded broadband Internet access, enabling more growers to tap the technology’s tools for education, research and Web-based management applications. Extension of small business expensing levels and the bonus depreciation tax provisions will aid producers’ cash flow and benefit those who need to purchase equipment. 

Producers are in store for a season of change and uncertainty, but also have the opportunity to explore new crops, methods and value-added products. The upcoming years may not be the best of times for growers, but most remain optimistic about agriculture’s future.

 Based in Greensboro, N.C., the author writes articles about horticulture, landscaping, agriculture and travel. She has been a contributor to Moose River Media publications for three years.

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