U.S. Biomass Has Huge Potential for Renewable Energy
WASHINGTON (Oct. 11, 2012) — Non-food crops, farm residues and waste -- collectively known as “biomass” -- have the power to dramatically increase our nation’s renewable energy supply, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) concluded in a report released today.
The report, “The Promise of Biomass,”shows nearly 680 million tons of biomass could be made available for fuel and electricity on an annual basis by 2030. That is enough for:
- 54 billion gallons of non-food, cellulosic ethanol, quadruple the amount of corn ethanol produced nationwide in 2010; or
- Enough electricity to meet one-fifth of nationwide demand.
“We see major potential for clean power and fuel from these renewable resources,” said Jeremy Martin, a senior scientist at UCS and author of the report. “But it is important to focus on the right kinds of resources, and the scale at which they can be utilized that balances energy and environmental needs.”
While other biomass assessments have cataloged the resources available, the report sets a higher bar than previous analyses, limiting use of agricultural residues to minimize erosion and maintain soil carbon. Domestic bioenergy development is part of UCS’ comprehensive Half the Oil Plan, which lays out a realistic path to cutting oil nation’s oil use in half within 20 years.
This summer’s disastrous drought showed the impact changing weather conditions can have on our food supply, a problem only exacerbated when that food is used for fuel as well. According to the report, to avoid trading our fossil fuel problems for problems in our food system and forestlands, limits must be placed on the amount of land devoted to producing energy crops.
“The scale of the biomass resources available to us in this country shows that we can produce biofuels in a way that doesn’t pit the fuel we put in our cars against the food we consume,” Martin said. “Biomass gives our nation the opportunity it needs to create a long and sustainable future for biofuels.”