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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In Search for the Silver Bullet: Mitigating Climate Change through Oil-Palm Agroforestry

By Baruani Mshale

This investigative review compares oil palm agroforestry, monoculture oil-palm and soybean oil production using four parameters: biodiesel production, carbon sequestration, food security and biodiversity conservation. Oil-palm agroforestry promises multiple benefits including: displacing petrodiesel use; requires ten-times less land area compared to soybean; positively affect local food security; has no carbon debt; and result to significantly less effects on biodiversity conservation. Oil-palm agroforestry’s positive impacts are largely due to its need for a significantly smaller land area and the combination of palm-trees and food crops on the same land. This article further emphasizes that impacts of biofuel production depend on several factors such as choice of biofuel feedstock, history of land use, location of biofuel feedstock plantation and cultivation systems. Therefore using case studies to generalize at the global level might be flawed. Local level silver bullets are already there, but searching for a global silver bullet might be detrimental to the whole process.

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Carbon Sequestration Potential of the MillionTreesNYC Initiative

By Jesse Moore

In April of 2007 Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of New York City, announced PlaNYC. PlaNYC is a comprehensive strategy to make New York City a more sustainable city. PlaNYC is comprised of 127 separate initiatives that focus on different aspects of sustainable development. Public transportation, sustainable housing development, energy efficiency, and air and water quality are a few of the issues being considered in PlaNYC (MillionTreesNYC 2009).

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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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Canada’s potential for biofuel

By Laura Palombi

In my first review, I focused on how the oils sands industry is one reason why Canada is not on track to meet its Kyoto emissions reduction targets. Despite this setback, Canada is working to expand its biofuel industry and has set targets of 5% renewable content for gasoline by 2010 and 2% renewable content for diesel and home heating oil by 2012. In this review, I will explore how wood biomass and warm-season prairie grasses could contribute to meeting these targets and the implications for land use demands and large-scale commercial production.

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