Cedar Creek study fuels excitement in bioenergy

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The Cedar Creek (CDR) LTER's work on the use of low-input, high-diversity prairie restoration as a way to produce biofuels and provide a variety of environmental benefits has created a great deal of buzz and attention for the LTER site, but is also keeping the busy scientists at the site literally on their toes.

A new study led by David Tilman, the lead principal investigator at CDR and an ecologist at the University of Minnesota, shows that mixtures of native perennial grasses and other flowering plants provide more usable energy per acre than corn grain ethanol or soybean biodiesel and are far better for the environment. The study was featured prominently in the December 8, 2006 issue of the journal Science.

In December alone, Tilman and co-authors Jason Hill and Clarence Lehman gave more than 50 radio, television, and newspaper interviews. It seems that the excitement will not die down just yet: in the first two months of 2007 the authors have already presented more than 30 public talks and testimonies to legislative bodies locally and in Washington, DC.

Although it might look like a scientist's dream come true, Tilman confesses that the attention has been equally frustrating as it is gratifying because it has overwhelmed their schedules and made it nearly impossible for them to keep up with the demand for their time.

You can read the full report of the study online at http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/314/5805/1598/ or download a PDF copy here. You can also read the National Science Foundation's news release about the study at http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=108206&org=NSF.