One way of supplying energy is to grow plant material and burn it. If managed well most of the carbon released by burning the material will be captured by the growing plants, and so have a low impact on overall levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide.
Better still, the growing plants could be used to help solve other environmental problems. In a review of current systems, Gφran Berndes from the Department of Energy and Environment at Chalmers University of Technology in Gφtenborg, Sweden highlights several systems.
One set of systems currently running in Sweden grows willow trees and irrigates them with sewage effluent. This helps purify the sewage outflow at the same time as providing fuel.
Other systems plant willow buffers between arable land and water ways. The willow trees use nitrogen that is being leached off the land, making good use of it instead of letting it simply pollute the rivers and seas.
A third system that Berndes highlights is the option of growing biomass on areas of wasteland in India. Along with providing fuel, this also stops the land becoming degraded by erosion.
"We can do biofuels right or we can do them wrong. If we develop them correctly, we can achieve great environmental, economic and social benefits. It is our responsibility to look forward and shape the emerging biofuels industry so that it actually provides these benefits," says journal editor Bruce E. Dale, Ph. D., Distinguished Professor of Chemical Engineering, Michigan State University. "With Biofuels, Bioproducts and Biorefining we intend to shed light on the pathways by which biofuels and bioproducts can realise their enormous potential for good."
These reviews are all featured in Issue 1 of the 2nd Volume of Biofuels, Bioproducts and Biorefining and all content will be freely available online via Wiley Interscience.
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