”Grass station” is a term which is meant to describe a hypothetical location which provides fuels made from biomass. The term was popularized in 2007, when it became the Webster's Dictionary word of the year; the editors of the dictionary claimed that they chose the word because they found it an interesting example of the ways in which English can be repurposed. The term is obviously a pun on “gas station,” a fueling station which provides conventional fuels derived from petrochemicals.
The “grass” in grass station can be any sort of biomass, but many people think specifically of switch grass, which entered the public consciousness in 2006 during a State of the Union Address by American President George Bush. Bush referred to switch grass as a potential source of cheap, renewable alternative fuel which could be used to reduce American dependence on foreign oil. Residents of the American Midwest were already quite familiar with the plant, which is used as a source of livestock fodder since it grows quickly and requires little maintenance.
The concept of a grass station might seem a bit silly and perhaps overly optimistic, but it speaks to a growing trend in the early 21st century. The first decade of the 21st century marked an increasing awareness among ordinary citizens about sustainability and environmental issues, and terms like “carbon neutral,” “locavore,” and “green” began to be bandied about with great frequency. Numerous biomass fuels such as diesel developed from corn began to enter a period of high demand as a result of increasing consumer awareness about the problems with petroleum based fuels.
The offerings at a grass station could vary widely, depending on available fuels, demand, and technology. Ethanol fuels like that which can be derived from switch grass would presumably be on the menu, along with various forms of biodiesel. Other alternative fuels like hydrogen or solar powered charging stations for electric cars could potentially be available as well, ensuring that motorists would have access to the fuels that they need.
The primary advantage of alternative fuels potentially served up at a grass station is that they are renewable, and they can be less polluting than petroleum based fuels. Alternative fuels have their own environmental and social cost, of course. For example, when demand for biodiesel rose dramatically in 2007, prices of corn tortillas in Mexico began to skyrocket, as supplies of corn began to be diverted to biofuel production. This led to food security problems in rural Mexico, where corn tortillas are a staple food.