Quinn isn’t discounting the idea of harvesting invasive plants, however. She encourages control of invasive populations and subsequent ecological restoration but does not believe that invasive biomass can replace dedicated energy crops at present.
“One day there might be a pathway toward ethanol conversion of invasive biomass,” Quinn said. “But until we do get to that point, there may be possibilities to use invasive plants as alternative sources of energy, like combustion for electricity. Invasive biomass could drop into the existing supply of biomass being co-fired with coal in the already huge network of electrical power plants across the country. That would eliminate the technological barriers that conversion to ethanol presents.
“I’m not saying that we shouldn’t continue to look at ethanol conversion processes eventually, I’m just saying that right now, it doesn’t seem to make a lot of economic sense.”
“Why not harvest existing invaders for bioethanol?” was published in a recent issue of Biological Invasions. A. Bryan Endres and Thomas B. Voigt contributed. The research was funded by the Energy Biosciences Institute.