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Oct 7, 2011 6:32 PM by Shawn Kline

Sugar Cane the next gasoline?

"We have the researchers, we have the scientists, we think we have the farmers so we just have to marry those things together," the LSU AgCenter's Blair Hebert said of a $17-million grant the school received this month.

Hebert summed it up- all the pieces are in place to put LSU at the nation's forefront to help lead the charge in biofuel production.

In Iberia Parish, farmer Ricky Judice is considering joining-in on the plan.

Judice grows sugar cane. This year's drought had some farmers concerned but with a high demand for sugar, he says it's going to be a good harvest.

"This year's been a good year." Judice says, "we're experiencing high prices for sugar so we're happy about that."

But if there's one thing Judice has learned about farming, the prices don't hold. That's why he's looking into growing a new, genetically enhanced crop called 'energy cane'.

"There's always going to be a place for sugar in our fields." Judice says, "but there might be a place for both."

Conventional sugar cane is the same stuff that eventually makes its way into your coffee cup, but scientists have developed a taller sugar cane they hope could be used for something new- it's going into your gas tank.

"We're looking at the next generation of biofuels." Dr. Sonny Viator says, "it's something that largely doesn't exist right now."

Dr. Viator says he can already turn his enhanced energy cane into gasoline. The question now is, when can it be sold at your local gas station?

"At the end of five years, we'll have attracted farmers, infrastructure and a whole biofuels industry set up to produce this stuff commercially," Dr. Viator said.

Experts say the country will still depend on traditional oil but within the next decade, at least a percentage of your gasoline could come from Louisiana sugar cane.

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