Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Beneficial Biofuels: Leading National Experts Reach Consensus

Date:
July 22, 2009
Source:
University of Minnesota
Summary:
Biofuels can be produced in large quantities and have multiple benefits, but only if they come from feedstocks produced with low life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions, as well as minimal competition with food production, according to a group of experts.

Biofuels can be produced in large quantities and have multiple benefits, but only if they come from feedstocks produced with low life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions, as well as minimal competition with food production. This consensus emerges in a new journal article by researchers from the University of Minnesota, Princeton, MIT and the University of California, Berkeley.

"The world needs to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy, but recent findings have thrown the emerging biofuels industry into a quandary. We met to seek solutions," said the U of M's David Tilman, a noted ecologist and lead author of the paper. "We found that the next generation of biofuels can be highly beneficial if produced properly."

The article, "Beneficial Biofuels—The Food, Energy and Environment Trilemma," will appear in the July 17 issue of Science. Tilman, a resident fellow of the U of M's Institute on the Environment, said the paper resulted from a year of conversations and debate among some of the nation's leading biofuel experts.

In addition to Tilman, the article contributors include the U of M's Jonathan Foley and Jason Hill; Princeton's Robert Socolow, Eric Larson, Stephen Pacala, Tim Searchinger and Robert Williams; Dartmouth's Lee Lynd; MIT's John Reilly; and the University of California, Berkeley's Chris Somerville.

The paper coincides with climate change policy debates in Congress, and tackles land use issues that have generated much controversy in recent years: Specifically, the greenhouse gases released when land is cleared to grow biofuel crops (or when other lands are cleared to compensate for food crops displaced by biofuel crops) can—for decades to centuries—exceed those from petroleum use.

"It's essential that legislation take the best science into account, even when that requires acknowledging and undoing earlier mistakes," said Princeton's Socolow, co-director of the Carbon Mitigation Initiative.

"Careful scientific reasoning revealed accounting rules that separate promising from self-defeating strategies," added Socolow. "Future carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere will tell us when we're kidding ourselves about what actually works. For carbon management, the atmosphere is the ultimate accountant."

To balance biofuel production, food security and emissions reduction, the authors conclude that the global biofuels industry must focus on five major sources of renewable biomass:

  • Perennial plants grown on degraded lands abandoned from agricultural use
  • Crop residues
  • Sustainably harvested wood and forest residues
  • Double crops and mixed cropping systems
  • Municipal and industrial wastes

These sources can provide considerable amounts of biomass, at least 500 million tons per year in the United States alone, without incurring any significant land use carbon dioxide releases.

"We need to transition away from using food for biofuels toward more sustainable feedstocks that can be produced with much less impact on the environment," said the U of M's Hill, a resident fellow of the Institute on the Environment.

The U of M's Foley, director of the Institute on the Environment, said the consensus reached in this article is remarkable. "Technology experts, energy systems analysts, climatologists, ecologists and policy experts all agreed: Biofuels 'done right' have a bright future in solving our energy and environmental challenges. Both new and existing biofuel strategies have the potential for being among the green energy solutions we need today."


Story Source:

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


Cite This Page:

University of Minnesota. "Beneficial Biofuels: Leading National Experts Reach Consensus." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 July 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090716141219.htm>.
University of Minnesota. (2009, July 22). Beneficial Biofuels: Leading National Experts Reach Consensus. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090716141219.htm
University of Minnesota. "Beneficial Biofuels: Leading National Experts Reach Consensus." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090716141219.htm (accessed September 20, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Wildfires in CA Burn Forest Asunder

Raw: Wildfires in CA Burn Forest Asunder

AP (Sep. 18, 2014) An out-of-control Northern California wildfire has nearly 2,800 people from their homes as it continues to grow, authorities said Thursday. Authorities said a man has been arrested on suspicion of arson for starting the fire on Saturday. (Sept. 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Elephant Undergoes Surgery in Tbilisi Zoo

Raw: Elephant Undergoes Surgery in Tbilisi Zoo

AP (Sep. 18, 2014) Grand the elephant has successfully undergone surgery to remove a portion of infected tusk at Tbilisi Zoo in Georgia. British veterinary surgeons used an electric drill to extract the infected piece. (Sept. 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) Squid experts in New Zealand thawed and examined an unusual catch on Tuesday: a colossal squid. It was captured in Antarctica's remote Ross Sea in December last year and has been frozen for eight months. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Man Floats for 31 Hours in Gulf Waters

Man Floats for 31 Hours in Gulf Waters

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) A Texas man is lucky to be alive after he and three others floated for more than a day in the Gulf of Mexico when their boat sank during a fishing trip. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
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:
from the past week

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