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.
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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.
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.
Biomass power offers utilities a potential pathway to increase their renewable generation portfolios for compliance with renewable energy standards and to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions relative to current fossil-based technologies. To date, a large body of life-cycle assessment (LCA) literature assessing biopower’s life-cycle GHG emissions has been published.
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Life cycle assessment (LCA) is a powerful tool that may be used to quantify the environmental impacts of products and services. It includes all processes, from cradle-to-grave, along the supply chain of the product. When analysing energy systems, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (primarily CO2, CH4 and N2O) are the impact of primary concern. In using LCA to determine the climate change mitigation benefits of bioenergy, the life cycle emissions of the bioenergy system are compared with the emissions for a reference energy system.
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.
Recent legislative mandates have been enacted at state and federal levels with the purpose of reducing life cycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from transportation fuels. This legislation encourages the substitution of fossil fuels with ‘low-carbon’ fuels. The burden is put on regulatory agencies to determine the GHG-intensity of various fuels, and those agencies naturally look to science for guidance.
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.
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.
This paper introduces a spatial bioeconomic model for study of potential cellulosic biomass supply at regional scale. By modeling the profitability of alternative crop production practices, it captures the opportunity cost of replacing current crops by cellulosic biomass crops. The model draws upon biophysical crop input-output coefficients, price and cost data, and spatial transportation costs in the context of profit maximization theory. Yields are simulated using temperature, precipitation and soil quality data with various commercial crops and potential new cellulosic biomass crops.