This is an article from Science Magazine from October 2008. Science-based policy is essential for guiding an environmentally sustainable approach to cellulosic biofuels. The May 2008 passage of the 2008 Farm Bill raises the stakes for biofuel sustainability: A substantial subsidy for the production of cellulosic ethanol starts the United States again down a path with uncertain environmental consequences.
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We quantify the emergence of biofuel markets and its impact on U.S. and world agriculture for the coming decade using the multi-market, multi-commodity international FAPRI (Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute) model. The model incorporates the trade-offs between biofuel, feed, and food production and consumption and international feedback effects of the emergence through world commodity prices and trade.
A working paper review of current approaches to accounting for indirect land-use changes in green house gas balances of biofuels. This report reviews the current effort made worldwide to address this issue. A
description of land-use concepts is first provided (Section 2) followed by a classification of
ILUC sources (Section 3). Then, a discussion on the implications of including ILUC
emissions in the GHG balance of biofuel pathways (Section 4) and a review of methodologies
being developed to quantify indirect land-use change (Section 5) are presented. Section 6
Biofuels from land-rich tropical countries may help displace foreign petroleum imports for many industrialized nations, providing a possible solution to the twin challenges of energy security and climate change. But concern is mounting that crop-based biofuels will increase net greenhouse gas emissions if feedstocks are produced by expanding agricultural lands. Here we quantify the ?carbon payback time? for a range of biofuel crop expansion pathways in the tropics.
Land-use changes are frequently indicated to be one of the main human-induced factors influencing the groundwater system. For land-use change, groundwater research has mainly focused on the change in water quality thereby neglecting changes in quantity. The objective of this paper is to assess the impact of land-use changes, from 2000 until 2020, on the hydrological balance and in particular on groundwater quantity, as results from a case study in the Kleine Nete basin, Belgium.
In this paper we investigate the potential production and implications of a global biofuels industry. We develop alternative approaches to the introduction of land as an economic factor input, in value and physical terms, into a computable general equilibrium framework. Both approach allows us to parameterize biomass production in a manner consistent with agro-engineering information on yields and a ?second generation? cellulosic biomass conversion technology.
The harvest of corn stover or herbaceous crops as feedstocks for bioenergy purposes has been shown to have significant benefits from energy and climate change perspectives. There is a potential, however, to adversely impact water and soil quality, especially in Midwestern states where the biomass feedstock production would predominantly occur.
National interests in greater energy independence, concurrent with favorable market forces, have driven increased production of corn-based ethanol in the United States and research into the next generation of biofuels. The trend is changing the national agricultural landscape and has raised concerns about potential impacts on the nation?s water resources. This report examines some of the key issues and identifies opportunities for shaping policies that help to protect water resources.
Power generation emits significant amounts of greenhouse gases (GHGs), mainly carbon dioxide (CO2). Sequestering CO2 from the power plant flue gas can significantly reduce the GHGs from the power plant itself, but this is not the total picture. CO2 capture and sequestration consumes additional energy, thus lowering the plant's fuel-to-electricity efficiency. To compensate for this, more fossil fuel must be procured and consumed to make up for lost capacity.
An analysis was performed at NREL to examine the global warming potential and energy balance of power generation from fossil and biomass systems including CO2 sequestration. To get the true environmental picture, a life cycle approach, which takes into account upstream process steps, was applied. Each system maintained the same constant generating capacity and any lost capacity due to CO2 sequestration was accounted for by adding power generation from a natural gas combined-cycle system. This paper discusses the systems examined and gives the net energy and GWP for each system.
The generation of electricity, and the consumption of energy in general, often result in adverse effects on the environment. Coal-fired power plants generate over half of the electricity used in the U.S., and therefore play a significant role in any discussion of energy and the environment. By cofiring biomass, currently-operating coal plants have an opportunity to reduce the impact they have, but to what degree, and with what trade-offs? A life cycle assessment (LCA) has been conducted on a coal-fired power system that cofires wood residue.
This report discusses the development of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions estimates for the production of Fischer-Tropsch (FT) derived fuels (in particular, FT diesel), makes comparisons of these estimates to reported literature values for petroleum-derived diesel, and outlines strategies for substantially reducing these emissions.
To determine the environmental implications of producing electricity from biomass and coal, life cycle assessments (LCA) have been conducted on systems based on three power generation options: (1) a biomass-fired integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) system, (2) three coal-fired power plant technologies, and (3) a system cofiring waste biomass with coal.
Biomass is a significant contributor to the US economy--agriculture, forest and paper products, food and related products account for 5% of our GDP. While the forest products industry self generates some of their energy, other sectors are importers. Bioenergy can contribute to economic development and to the environment. Examples of bioenergy routes suggest that atmospheric carbon can be cycled through biofuels in carefully designed systems for sustainability. Significant potential exists for these options.
The U.S. Department of Energy has supported a research and development program for the establishment of renewable, biomass-derived, liquid fuels for the better part of the last twenty years. These 'biofuels' represent opportunities to respond to uncertainties about our energy security and the future health of our environment. Throughout its history, the Biofuels Program has experienced an ongoing fiscal 'roller coaster'. Funding has ebbed and flowed with changing political and public attitudes about energy.
Biodiesel is a renewable diesel fuel substitute. It can be made from a variety of natural oils and fats. Biodiesel is made by chemically combining any natural oil or fat with an alcohol such as methanol or ethanol. Methanol has been the most commonly used alcohol in the commercial production of biodiesel. In Europe, biodiesel is widely available in both its neat form (100% biodiesel, also know as B100) and in blends with petroleum diesel. European biodiesel is made predominantly from rapeseed oil (a cousin of canola oil).
Despite a rapid worldwide expansion of the biofuel industry, there is a lack of consensus within the scientific community about the potential of biofuels to reduce reliance on petroleum and decrease greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Although life cycle assessment provides a means to quantify these potential benefits and environmental impacts, existing methods limit direct comparison within and between different biofuel systems because of inconsistencies in performance metrics, system boundaries, and underlying parameter values.
The Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007 established specific targets for the production of biofuel in the United States. Until advanced technologies become commercially viable, meeting these targets will increase demand for traditional agricultural commodities used to produce ethanol, resulting in land-use, production, and price changes throughout the farm sector. This report summarizes the estimated effects of meeting the EISA targets for 2015 on regional agricultural production and the environment. Meeting EISA targets for ethanol production is estimated to expand U.S.
Traffic flows in the U.S. have been affected by the substantial increase and, as of January 2009, decrease in biofuel production and use. This paper considers a framework to study the effect on grain transportation flows of the 2005 Energy Act and subsequent legislation, which mandated higher production levels of biofuels, e.g. ethanol and biodiesels. Future research will incorporate changes due to the recent economic slowdown.
This paper examines the impact of biofuel expansion on grain utilization and distribution at the state and cropping district level as most of grain producers and handlers are directly influenced by the local changes. We conducted a survey to understand the utilization and flows of corn, ethanol and its co-products, such as dried distillers grains (DDG) in Iowa. Results suggest that the rapidly expanding ethanol industry has a significant impact on corn utilization in Iowa.