June 5, 2008
CLEVELAND, Tenn. (KOAA) - If you live in the South, there is a good chance you drive by kudzu everyday.
Two Tennessee inventors believe the green vine could solve the ongoing fuel crisis.
You can't fill up with it just yet, however, that could change very soon.
"This is a version of 180-proof ethanol made from the kudzu plant," explained Doug Mizell, co-founder of Agro*Gas Industries in Cleveland, Tennessee, as he points to a jar filled with clear liquid.
Mizell and company co-founder, Tom Monahan, have dubbed the kudzu-based-ethanol,
Not only do they make it, the two believe the suffocating weed that has become an annoyance might just be a saving grace at the fuel pump.
"Everybody knows that you can make ethanol from corn and soy bean," said Mizell. "What most people don't know is that you can make ethanol from anything green."
So, instead of fuel and feed, Agro*Gas is putting their energy into converting what is readily available and cheap.
Kudzu is an obvious resource.
"There's 7.2 million acres of kudzu in the south that's absolutely good to no one," said Mizell. "It grows a foot a day, 60 feet a season and can be harvested twice a year and not even hurt the stand."
Farm refuse is another profitable option.
"All the leftovers from the harvest are pulled in, and we can break that cellulose down and make ethanol from it," said Mizell. "It's not tied to the commodities market, so the price won't raise and lower in relation to the stock markets."
Agro*Gas can even produce ethanol from industrial waste.
"This is a sample made from an industrial waste stream," Mizell said, showing off a sample. "It's something the industry is presently throwing away, and we can make fuel from it."
Mizell says the ethanol process is simply "Moonshine 101" and has not changed in 500 years.
Agro*Gas plans to build a cellulosic plant to produce the Kudzonol and bio-diesel, Green D.
The ethanol producing plant would be small, regional, and reliant on local farmers.
"Farmers still can't believe the fact that we would actually pay them for stuff they now throw away or turn under," said Monahan. "It's like, 'I can't believe it's true until I see the money.'"
Agro*Gas plans to break ground on an ethanol producing plant in McMinn County or a surrounding county by end of the year and hopefully begin production in 2009.
The plant will be environmentally friendly and funded by private dollars.
Currently Monahan and Mizell are working with investors across the country as well as local farmers.
By Bea Karnes
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