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.
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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.
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.
Transgenic modification of plants is a key enabling technology for developing sustainable biofeedstocks for biofuels production. Regulatory decisions and the wider acceptance and development of transgenic biofeedstock crops are considered from the context of science-based risk assessment. The risk assessment paradigm for transgenic biofeedstock crops is fundamentally no different from that of current generation transgenic crops, except that the focus of the assessment must consider the unique attributes of a given biofeedstock crop and its environmental release.
Soaring global food prices are threatening to push more poor people back below the poverty line; this will probably become aggravated by the serious challenge that increasing population and climate changes are posing for food security. There is growing evidence that human activities involving fossil fuel consumption and land use are contributing to greenhouse gas emissions and consequently changing the climate worldwide. The finite nature of fossil fuel reserves is causing concern about energy security and there is a growing interest in the use of renewable energy sources such as biofuels.
The rapidly expanding biofuel industry has changed the fundamentals of U.S. agricultural commodity markets. Increasing ethanol and biodiesel production has generated a fast-growing demand for corn and soybean products, which competes with the well-established domestic livestock industry and foreign buyers. Meanwhile, the co-products of biofuel production are replacing or displacing coarse grains and oilseed meal in feed rations for livestock.
Prior studies have estimated that a liter of bioethanol requires 263−784 L of water from corn farm to fuel pump, but these estimates have failed to account for the widely varied regional irrigation practices. By using regional time-series agricultural and ethanol production data in the U.S., this paper estimates the state-level field-to-pump water requirement of bioethanol across the nation. The results indicate that bioethanol’s water requirements can range from 5 to 2138 L per liter of ethanol depending on regional irrigation practices.
There is a strong societal need to evaluate and understand the sustainability of biofuels, especially because of the significant increases in production mandated by many countries, including the United States. Sustainability will be a strong factor in the regulatory environment and investments in biofuels. Biomass feedstock production is an important contributor to environmental, social, and economic impacts from biofuels.
The water consumption and agrochemical use during biofuel production could adversely impact both availability and quality of a precious resource.
In this paper, we assess what is known or anticipated about environmental and sustainability factors associated with next-generation biofuels relative to the primary conventional biofuels (i.e., corn grain-based ethanol and soybean-based diesel) in the United States during feedstock production and conversion processes. Factors considered include greenhouse (GHG) emissions, air pollutant emissions, soil health and quality, water use and water quality, wastewater and solid waste streams, and biodiversity and land-use changes.