Archive for Carbon Sequestration

Moldy Vegetables and Discarded Leftovers: The Hidden Carbon in Table Scraps

By Paul Davis

Each day the average American sends three pounds of solid waste to the landfill, out of which nearly six ounces is energy rich food scraps. While a small portion of our food scraps are currently recaptured for composting, the EPA estimates that nearly 97 plus percent ends up in landfills where it produces prodigious amounts of CH4 gas – contributing to global warming while wasting a precious form of potentially renewable energy. However, as recognition has grown over landfill wastes as a substantial source of greenhouse gas emissions, researchers and businessman have began to dedicate increased amounts of time and money to developing advanced digester technologies that can effectively capture food waste gas emissions and utilize them to produce green energy.

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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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