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BE/MUSES: Renewable Energy from Forest Resources: Investigating the Complex Interrelated Issues Associated with Generating Automotive Fuels from Lignocellulosic Biomass

This BE/MUSES planning grant supports planning activities to investigate the feasibility of the use of biomass from lignocellulose sources (switchgrass, poplar, alder) for processing into a motor vehicle fuel (ethanol). It brings together an interdisciplinary team with expertise in forest ecology, conservation biology, natural resource economics, sociology, chemical and mechanical engineering, GIS and spatial analysis, and educational outreach. It includes several parts: investigating and confirming optimal research methodologies including GIS techniques for identifying suitable biomass in the Great Lakes system, avian surveys as a measure of biodiversity, policy elements through involvement of interest groups (CVM), studies on the enzymatic hydrolysis of cellulose and yield of ethanol, comparative life cycle analyses, analysis of the supply chain for processing centers to deliver fuels. Educational activities include new and modified courses at MTU, and inclusion of Native Americans from a local community college in research activities. The impacts of this planning project focus on the groundwork that could alter the way the U.S. is powered. The potential for development of a domestic renewable source of automotive fuel that could significantly replace petroleum and other fossil-based fuels had broad social, industrial, economic, ecological and political implications. This award will be co-manages by Paul Werbos, ECS / ENG and Delcie Durham, DMII./ENG.

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