Energy Crops

America has more Sugar than the Middle East has oil. How can this be?

When people are asked where sugar comes from they will most likely answer: sugar cane or sugar beets, because that is what most people are familiar with. Yet, sugar is the basic molecular building block within all plant life on Earth. Carbohydrates are made of sugar molecules. All plants, including trees and grasses are made of carbohydrates, combined with lignin and a small percentage of oils and proteins (although some plants and vegetables are known for their high percentage of oil or protein, they are the exception).

America can grow more plants and trees — the desert sands of the Middle East cannot grow more oil.

Carbohydrates are made of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen with a ratio of two hydrogen atoms for every oxygen atom. Carbohydrates are produced byphotosynthesis — a natural process that takes place chemically within the plants and trees. Photosynthesis uses the energy of sunlight to remove carbon from CO2, that the plant absorbs from the atmosphere, and combines the carbon with hydrogen and oxygen taken from water drawn from the plants roots, creating carbohydrate molecular chains to grow the plant's cells, and releasing free oxygen molecules back to the outside air. In this way, plants and trees create the oxygen animals and humans need to breathe.

The name carbohydrate means "watered carbon" or carbon with attached water molecules.

Carbohydrates take the form of natural sugars, starches, cellulose and hemicellulose. The natural sugars are called simple carbohydrates, or simple sugars (monosaccharides). The starches, cellulose and hemicellulose are called complex carbohydrates, also known as complex sugars (polysaccharides).

Because of modern technology, all biomass (plants and trees) are a source of sugar and energy. Modern technology can break down the long molecular chains that form the complex carbohydrates within the plants and free the sugar molecules for conversion to usable forms of energy such as renewable ethanol.

Picture in your mind's eye the trees and plants that cover the United States. Imagine how vast this is. The energy locked inside the sugar molecules created by the huge amount of new plant growth each year within the U.S. is far more than the energy contained within the crude oil the U.S. imports each year.

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