Archive for Agriculture

Could sustainable forest management practices provide regular supply of feed stocks for cellulosic ethanol production at commercial scale?

By Mukesh Patir

The Renewal Fuels Standards (RFS) of US Energy Independence and Security Act 2007 requires replacing 39 billion gallons of gasoline use by 2022 with renewal fuels and of these 21 billion gallons is expected to come from cellulosic ethanol. The USDA provide loan up to $ 250 million dollars for research into renewal fuels and recently it has awarded loan to Range fuels to build a 100 million gallons cellulosic ethanol plant in Georgia using mostly woods and forest residues. Is it going to be sustainable or would intensive forest management practice be able to supply feedstock for producing ethanol?

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Switchgrass—On Corn Acreage or CRP?

By Kristen Johnson

The Department of Energy (DOE) has set the goal of making cellulosic ethanol cost-competitive by 2012, and by 2030, it aims to make biofuels displace 30% of the country’s projected gasoline use. Some of the primary types of feedstocks being considered to meet these goals are crop residues, perennial woody crops, and perennial grasses. Perennial grasses have been a particular focus, with switchgrass receiving the most attention. Switchgrass, a native tall-grass prairie species, is considered most promising because of its high yields, low inputs, and ability to adapt to a variety of conditions. But an important question concerning the sustainability of this feedstock is: where should this perennial grass be grown?

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Potential consequences of draining Brazil’s Pantanal

By Sean Killian

The Pantanal, located in central South America, is the world’s largest continental wetland. Covering an area the size of Florida and home to nearly 2,000 bird and fish species, the Pantanal is one of the most productive ecosystems on the planet. While large parts of the Pantanal have remained pristine, the ecosystem is currently under unprecedented pressure from economic development, alterations of its water courses and conversion to other land uses, including a national push for ethanol production. These pressures not only threaten the biodiversity of the Pantanal, which is itself an enormous carbon sink, they also threaten to trigger the atmospheric release of massive levels of carbon dioxide if drained. This paper evaluates wetlands’ role in the carbon cycle, and attempts to estimate the carbon loss to the atmosphere if the Pantanal were drained.

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The Costa Rican PSA: A Viable Policy

By Geoff  Michael

There are a number of approaches for emissions mitigation from land use and land use change (LULUC). In this paper I summarize the current success and costs of the various incentives for LULUC emissions mitigation. As a reference point I compare the success of each policy toward getting net annual emissions from LULUC to zero, down from the current 5.39 Gt of CO2 emissions. At present, without a penalty for CO2 emissions from LULUC for non-annex countries, the only incentive to maintain the most biodiverse mature forests comes from payments for ecosystem services or for carbon sequestration.

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The pros and cons of cane ethanol production in Jamaica

by Mike Buday

Due to a lack of fossil fuel reserves, Jamaica relies heavily on energy imports, despite an abundance of solar radiation, wind energy, fresh water, and arable land. Given its abundance of natural resources, Jamaica has the opportunity to pursue clean energy projects. In particular, Jamaica is in a good position to transform its existing sugar industry to facilitate the expansion of in-country cane ethanol production. This opportunity is fraught with obstacles and must be weighed against other possible pursuits. Land dedicated to growing cane is not available for other purposes and traditional methods of slash and burn cane harvesting lead to significant carbon emissions.

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Considering Future Resource Constraints Related to Biomass Production

By Russell Martin

In my previous article, I projected biomass production estimates per state using data from the Natural Resource Inventory and the Billion Ton Report. The projection provided valuable insight for policy-makers about the spatial distribution of future bioenergy feedstocks. This article will discuss future resource constraints that pertain to feedstock production and expand on my previous analysis by projecting estimated agricultural land requirements and daily water use of potential feedstocks. I conclude that bioenergy feedstocks should: 1) require minimal resources, 2) be produced in areas that minimize competition with other land-uses vital to supporting world populations 3) be inherently resilient to disease, and 4) be derived from a diverse array of sources.

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Fighting global warming and the war on drugs: The potential to use opium poppies as biofuel feedstock in Afghanistan

By Sean Killian

Afghanistan accounts for roughly 93 percent of the world’s total poppy production, and converts 90 per cent of its 8,000 tons of raw opium into heroin. In recent years, bilateral and multilateral aid projects have spend billions of dollars on “alternative development” projects aimed at moving farming communities from growing opium poppy to growing licit crops. Nevertheless, and despite a recent contraction in output, opium production remains high in part because few licit crops fetch the same farm-gate price. One alternative use for opium poppy, which yields roughly the same level of oil as rapeseed, is use as a biofuel feedstock. This paper examines the potential domestic and regional market for poppy-based biodiesel, the price at which poppy-based biodiesel would need to sell, and the role multilateral and bilateral aid might need to play.

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