Study: Meeting biofuel goal may be costly
Champaign, Ill. (UPI) Feb 17, 2011
U.S. researchers say the goal of replacing 30 percent of petroleum consumption in the U.S. with biofuels by 2030 is attainable, but at a high price.
Scientists at the University of Illinois say between 600 million and 900 million tons of biomass could be produced in 2030 at a price of $140 per ton while still meeting the country's demand for food from agriculture, a UI release reported Thursday.
"Most studies consider costs in the range of $40 to $50 per ton, which is fine when we're talking about biomass production to meet near-term targets for cellulosic biofuel production," Madhu Khanna, a professor of agricultural and consumer economics, said. "But if we really want to get to the 30 percent replacement of gasoline, at least with the current technology, then that's going to be much more costly."
It would require switching large areas from conventional crops to perennial grasses like switchgrass and miscanthus, she said.
"Unless biomass prices are really high, these perennial grasses are going to have a hard time competing with crops like corn, soybean and wheat for prime agricultural land," Khanna said.
It's a misperception to believe there's an inescapable trade-off between fuel and food, she said.
"That concern is much more prevalent when we talk about first-generation biofuels like corn-based ethanol," she said. "But for second-generation fuels, you can use crop residues as well as dedicated energy crops that can be grown on marginal land.
"This reduces the need to divert cropland away from food crop production," she said. "I'm optimistic that we can get considerable amounts of biomass without disrupting food production."
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Bio Fuel Technology and Application News
Rochester, N.Y. (UPI) Feb 17, 2011
U.S. researchers say algae grown in wastewater could be a promising source of biofuel while cleaning up the wastewater at the same time. Researchers at the Rochester Institute of Technology say their project to develop biodiesel from microalgae is doubly "green" because in addition to creating biofuel, the algae consume nitrates and phosphates and reduce bacteria and toxins in the water ... read more
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