Report suggests biomass energy won't harm food production

Dec 02, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Biomass could cover 20% of the global energy supply without harming production of food, a new report released in the United Kingdom says. Reviewing over 90 international studies, the report was produced by the Technology and Policy Assessment function of the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC), which tackles the challenges faced by the energy sector and seeks to provide solid and accessible reports that set high standards for rigour and transparency.

Some people believe is the future, capable of providing the power the world needs. But others think it will only jeopardise the environment. UKERC scientists at Imperial College London offer a systematic review of the evidence base.

According to the report, the discrepancy between those who favour biomass and those who don't is due to the different assumptions made about population, diet and land use. The speed with which improvements in the production of food and can be rolled out is the biggest problem between supporters and detractors.

'If we make the best use of agricultural residues, energy crops and , then getting one fifth of current supply from biomass is a reasonable ambition,' explains Dr Raphael Slade, lead author of the report and Research Fellow at Imperial College London.

While it is possible from a technical perspective, the report suggests that assumptions must be made about the production of food, while it also notes how changes in diets of those who live in Asia and Latin America are particularly challenging.

'The more you want, the harder it becomes to reconcile demand for food, energy and environmental protection,' Dr Slade says.

The report highlights how replacing all fossil fuels with biomass would be equivalent to all of and commercial forestry combined. This could happen if we can grow more food on less land. Developing technology could mitigate the challenges that currently hinder increased bioenergy production. However, policy is needed to help stimulate innovation and investment. The report suggests that paying particular attention to boosting food and energy crop yields could deliver a win-win opportunity - as long as soil fertility is not threatened and water resources are not depleted. Policy could also promote learning by fuelling the development of sustainable biomass today, and not leaving it for tomorrow.

'The main mistake is to think of this as all or nothing,' Dr Slade points out. 'There's plenty of scope for experimentation to make sure we get it right.'

Commenting on the role bioenergy could play, Dr Ausilio Bauen from the Centre for Energy Policy and Technology at Imperial College London says: 'Bioenergy may need to play a part in a future low-carbon energy mix. Ensuring bioenergy, food and forests don't compete for land won't be straightforward. But, if we use land more productively, and make better use of available plant material, we should be perfectly capable of producing bioenergy, feeding a growing population, and conserving the environment all at the same time.'

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irjsiq
1 / 5 (1) Dec 05, 2011
Two Thoughts spring-to-mind, both 'Corn' related . . .
1. Concurrent with the commencement of 'Ethanol' production, Corn prices escalated rapidly; driving-up 'Corn-based' products to the extent that 'food riots', which likely begot the 'Arab Spring'! We're mad as %@#, and we won't take it anymore! Of course 'Food Stamps' kept "We The People" 'off-the-streets'!
2. Regarding the 'Commodities Markets', I cannot recall a time 'prior to Ethanol production' when the price of 'Corn' exceeded the price of 'Wheat'! Only within the last couple of weeks has 'Wheat' prices, once-again, been 'Quoted' as higher than Corn.

Roy J Stewart,
Phoenix AZ
P.S. The increasing 'bad press' concerning (HFCS), makes one wonder if such news 'sent HFCS manufacturers looking for an alternative 'product-commodity', as a replacement?
"What's wrong with 'The SQUEAL?
"Use the SQUEAL as well!"
"via 'Piezo Electric' mechanisms!"
for We Are Almost out-of-time!
RjS

FrankHerbert
0.7 / 5 (48) Dec 05, 2011
As I understand the problem with HFCS isn't that it's inherently worse for you than sugar, it's that it's cheaper. Due to it's price, manufacturers put it in foods that would not have had more expensive sugar added to it had that been the only sweetener available.

So it's not that HFCS is worse than sugar, but that it's much more prolific as a function of its price. Things that don't need sugar added to them have HFCS added because, "hey we've got some, why not!"

People are becoming aware of the trend now and it will probably work itself down to a reasonable level. I guess the "free" market is good for some things.

The government plays an important role in forcing manufacturers to disclose their ingredients.

Now I do tend to avoid HFCS for political reasons. Corn subsidies are stupid. Also HFCS is only economically viable because of trade embargoes on Cuba. Go figure.
irjsiq
1 / 5 (1) Dec 05, 2011
Were 'Refining Facilities' located In-The-Field, where 'Biomass Stocks were grown, 'Logistics Issues' would make 'Biomass' more attractive. Currently, the Transportation of 'Biomass', In 'Petrol' using conveyance of Biomass, adds a great amount of the CO2, NO, and the other 'pollutants', to the Atmosphere . . . Not a 'Win-Win'!
Vastly preferable: Employing "H2" even 'incrementally' would commence the Voyage to full implementation of the eternal, yet, ephemeral Promise, that H2! . . . Sometime in the Future!
Wake-up! The Future IS NOW!
What paltry 'Gains' earned in the NOW,
Won't bring a lot of Joy, if our Coastal Cities are under Water!
aka: "H2, Ahora" take the first steps . . . knowledge/implementation will exponentially grow!
And 'Grow' a lot faster than the 'touted' BIOMASS!

Roy J Stewart,
Phoenix AZ
a Strong devotee of H2 since 1980!*
In 1980, The H2 age was a mere 10 years away . . . '2011' H2 remains the same distant: " 'Ten Years' away!!!"
RjS
irjsiq
1 / 5 (1) Dec 05, 2011
Thank You 'Frank Herbert'! I appreciated Your Comments regarding HFCS!
'CUBAN EMBARGO' ???

" ... Also HFCS is only economically viable because of trade embargoes on Cuba. Go figure. "

The United States has/is paying an astonishing LOSS of Trade with Cuba, simply because 'Cuba' expropriated U.S. owned 'Sugar Mills' on the Island! $250,000.00 (in 1959 Dollars), as I recall.
F. Castro/Cuba wanted Batista GONE!
F. Castro traveled to Washington, asking for Financial Assistance from the U.S.! The U.S. Govt. gave Mr. Castro 'the cold shoulder'!
Mr. Castro then went to Moscow, and was Welcomed with both Open Arms, and an Open Checkbook!
Guess We Showed Him! And Lost-Out on any chance of a continued 'Relationship' with one of the U.S. staunchest Trade Partners, commencing The 'Domino Theory', as Countries began to Orbit with the Soviets . . .unless the U.S. 'propped-up' their 'Tin Horn Dictators'!!!
Damned Expensive 'Sugar Mills'! Viet Nam for instance!

Roy J Stewart,
Phoenix AZ