Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Biofuel – the burning issues

The FARA bulletin of December-January 2008 - which will be shortly available on the FARA website - is dedicated to the issue of Biofuels.

The development of biofuel has been hailed as a sustainable way to combat dependency on declining oil reserves, but a new study suggests there are substantial obstacles to large-scale deployment of biofuels. It is still an open question whether biofuel can meet a significant proportion of the world’s energy needs, say John Fike and co-authors in a paper in CAB Reviews. There are numerous practical questions about biomass systems, from feedstocks to logistics to pretreatment/process technologies, to be addressed. While policies aimed at reducing carbon emissions may support biofuel, other environmental impacts are also of concern, say Fike and his colleagues at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

The cost of hauling the feedstock to the refinery is a key issue, and so a high proportion of farms within a given radius of the refinery would have to commit to producing the feedstock, as a need to transport the feedstock over long distances would make bioenergy production uneconomic. The distance of the refineries from the energy user is also an important factor. There are many logistic and socio-economic issues that will need to be resolved along with the purely technical issues, say the Virginia Tech team.

Challenges for deploying dedicated, large-scale, bioenergy systems in the USA by John Fike, David Parrish, Jeffrey Alwang and John Cundiff appears in CAB Reviews: Perspectives in Agriculture, Veterinary Science, Nutrition and Natural Resources2, December 2007, No. 064, 28 pp.

Biofuels - our future in the balance? interview with Trevor Nicholls, CEO CABI (Commonwealth Agricultural Bureau International - UK).

Posting of 11/01/2008 on the CABI blog

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