What Happened to Bush Call for Switch Grass?

ByABC News
January 22, 2007, 8:36 PM

Jan. 23, 2007— -- When a presidential pet project becomes a buzzword, does that buzz translate into action?

Last year's State of the Union buzzword -- "switch grass" -- had just about all of us scratching our heads.

"We'll also fund additional research in cutting-edge methods of reducing ethanol, not just from corn but wood chips and stalks, or switch grass," Bush said during last year's speech.

The goofy-sounding catchphrase tickled America's funnybone as a word and a concept, inducing giggles and dutifully making the rounds on Comedy Central and the late night talk circuit.

But the president insisted he was serious about switch grass.

At a speech in Minnesota days following last year's State of the Union, he talked about making "ethanol out of switch grass".

A few days after that he talked about "research that will enable us to drive cars by using switch grass, " Bush said.

On February 21, 2006 in Golden, Colorado Bush imagined "people in the desert being able to grow switch grasses that they can then convert into energy".

And during energy remarks last May in Pottstown, Pa., "Somebody said, 'what is switch grass?' I said, 'Well, it's a grass that looks like a switch that grows in dry country.' "

The President called on scientists to make fuel out of switch grass -- and make it be cheaper than gasoline by 2012. His goal is to see cellulosic ethanol -- in other words, fuel made from natural materials like switch grass -- provide 30% of our transportation fuels by the year 2030.

David Bransby, a professor of energy crops at Auburn University in Alabama, is the man behind the President's switch grass buzz. He planted a switch grass seed that made its way from rural Alabama to Washington, D.C., sprouting up during the president's speech on the floor of Congress. Bransby's been researching switch grass for decades, trying to find a way to capture the energy of the plant -- a native American species that once covered huge swaths of the Midwestern plains --