What do cattails have to do with clean oceans and energy independence? Ask David Blume of the International Institute for Ecological Agriculture.
Blume believes that by growing cattails on floodplains and wetlands, we can create a supply of alcohol to fuel cars and generate energy -- and purify the flow of floodwaters that carry fertilizer runoff into coastal waters, creating dead zones in their wake.
Blume is sharing the concept widely. I caught a moment or two of his interview on NPR's Science Friday, but you can here the entire program here. And his Permaculture.com website is a great source of information on ways to use many fast-growing plants (including kelp, mesquite and prickly-pear cactus) as the raw material for an alcohol energy economy.
All of these native or naturalized plants, he notes, can produce more alcohol fuel per acre than corn, or can do so without the labor of planting and the cost of irrigation water and fertilizer.
Expanding the habitat for cattails means restoring wetlands that provide a vital role in flood control, groundwater recharge and as wildlife habitat. (If his concept catches on, maybe he can convince farmers in North Dakota to start growing cattails instead of killing them off in order to destroy nesting cover for blackbirds that are gobbling up their sunflower crop.)
There's more detail in Blume's best-selling book, Alcohol Can Be a Gas!. Check it out and let us know what you think.