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Biomass, part II
Better agronomy for energy crops
Vinod Khosla, Gristmill
I believe improved crop practices are a vital aspect in meeting our cellulosic feedstock needs. There are a few areas that offer significant potential:
1. crop rotation,
2. the use of polyculture plantations,
3. perennials as energy crops, and
4. better agronomic practices.
We address all four issues here. Though none of these have been extensively studied, early studies and knowledgeable speculation point to their likely utility. Further study of these techniques is urgently needed, especially the use of grasses or other biomass-optimized winter cover crops.
(24 January 2008)
In the same series by Vinod Khosla: Biomass, Part I and Biomass, Part III.
Critique Mounts against Biofuels
Charles Hawley, Der Spiegel
The European Union has announced plans to increase the use of gas and diesel produced from plants. But the critique against biofuels is mounting. Many say they are even more harmful than conventional fossil fuels.
…”The biofuels route is a dead end,” Dr. Andrew Boswell, a Green Party councillor in England and author of a recent study on the harmful effects of biofuels, told SPIEGEL ONLINE. “They are going to create great damage to the environment and will also produce dramatic social problems in (tropical countries where many crops for biofuels are grown). There basically isn’t any way to make them viable.”
The evidence against biofuels marshalled by Boswell and other environmentalists appears quite damning. Advertised as a fuel that only emits the amount of carbon dioxide that the plants absorb while growing — making it carbon neutral — it actually has resulted in a profitable industrial sector attractive to countries around the world. Vast swaths of forest have been felled and burned in Argentina and elsewhere for soya plantations. Carbon-rich peat bogs are being drained and rain forests destroyed in Indonesia to make way for extensive palm oil farming.
Because the forests are often torched and the peat rapidly oxidizes, the result is huge amounts of CO2 being released into the atmosphere. Furthermore, healthy peat bogs and forests absorb CO2 — scientists refer to them as “carbon sinks” — making their disappearance doubly harmful.
(23 January 2008)
In the current issue of Der Spiegel: The Choice between Food and Fuel
Food prices are skyrocketing. Arable land is becoming scarce. And forests continue to disappear across the globe. The world must decide between affordable food and biofuels.