Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Global Limits Of Biomass Energy

Date:
June 14, 2008
Source:
Carnegie Institution of Science
Summary:
Biomass energy--energy generated from agricultural waste or specially grown energy crops--has been widely touted as a clean, renewable alternative to fossil fuels. Research is booming to improve energy crops and methods of converting crops to fuel. Already, Brazil gets 30% of its automotive fuel from ethanol distilled from sugar cane. But critics warn that "energy farming" will gobble up land needed to grow food or will impinge on natural ecosystems, possibly even worsening the climate crisis.

Biomass energy—energy generated from agricultural waste or specially grown energy crops—has been widely touted as a clean, renewable alternative to fossil fuels. Research is booming to improve energy crops and methods of converting crops to fuel. Already, Brazil gets 30% of its automotive fuel from ethanol distilled from sugar cane. But critics warn that “energy farming” will gobble up land needed to grow food or will impinge on natural ecosystems, possibly even worsening the climate crisis.

In the February Trends in Ecology and Evolution, Global Ecology director Chris Field, with postdoctoral fellow Elliott Campbell and a colleague, took a sober look at the prospects for biomass energy. They found that while biomass has many benefits—in principle it can be carbon neutral—there are limits to the extent that it can sustainably contribute to global energy needs. For example, the total mass of carbon fixed by all croplands worldwide each year (about 7 billion tons) is still less than that released by fossil fuel emissions (7.7 billion tons). This fact, the authors write, “highlights the challenge of replacing a substantial part of the fossil fuel system with a system based on biomass.”

The researchers used a combination of historical data, satellite imagery, and productivity models to determine best-case estimates of potential yields and of how much biomass could sustainably contribute to the world’s energy needs while also mitigating global warming.

“The area with the greatest potential for yielding biomass energy that reduces net warming and avoids competition with food production is land that was previously used for pasture but that has been abandoned and not converted to forest or urban areas,” they write.

Globally, suitable abandoned cropland and pastureland amounts to approximately 1.5 million square miles. Realistically, energy crops raised on this land could be expected to yield about 27 exajoules of energy each year. This is a huge amount of energy—an exajoule is a billion billion joules, equivalent to 172 million barrels of oil. Yet the biomass yield could still satisfy only about 5% of global primary energy consumption by humans, which in 2005 was 483 exajoules.

The study concludes that at a proper, sustainable scale, biomass energy presents exciting opportunities for increasing energy independence, sustaining farm economies, and decreasing the forcing of climate change. But deployed at a larger scale, it could threaten food security and exacerbate climate change.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Carnegie Institution of Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Carnegie Institution of Science. "Global Limits Of Biomass Energy." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 June 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080611181214.htm>.
Carnegie Institution of Science. (2008, June 14). Global Limits Of Biomass Energy. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080611181214.htm
Carnegie Institution of Science. "Global Limits Of Biomass Energy." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080611181214.htm (accessed October 23, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

San Diego Zoo's White Rhinos Provide Hope for the Critically Endangered Species

San Diego Zoo's White Rhinos Provide Hope for the Critically Endangered Species

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Oct. 22, 2014) — The pair of rare white northern rhinos bring hope for their species as only six remain in the world. Elly Park reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Trick-or-Treating Banned Because of Polar Bears

Trick-or-Treating Banned Because of Polar Bears

Buzz60 (Oct. 21, 2014) — Mother Nature is pulling a trick on the kids of Arviat, Canada. As Mara Montalbano (@maramontalbano) tells us, the effects of global warming caused the town to ban trick-or-treating this Halloween. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Traditional Farming Methods Gaining Ground in Mali

Traditional Farming Methods Gaining Ground in Mali

AFP (Oct. 20, 2014) — He is leading a one man agricultural revolution in Mali - Oumar Diatabe uses traditional farming methods to get the most out of his land and is teaching others across the country how to do the same. Duration: 01:44 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Detroit's Money Woes Led To U.N.-Condemned Water Cutoffs

How Detroit's Money Woes Led To U.N.-Condemned Water Cutoffs

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) — The United Nations says water is a human right, but should it be free? Detroit has cut off water to residents who can't pay, and the U.N. isn't happy. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins