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Beyond the corn field: Balancing fuel, food and biodiversity
Date:2/16/2010

The development of alternative fuel will greatly benefit the U.S., say scientists in an Energy Foundation-funded report published today by the Ecological Society of America (ESA), the nation's largest organization of ecological scientists. However, in order to effectively reap the social and economic benefits of biofuel production, U.S. policies need to address potential effects of land-use choices on our ecosystems.

In the report, scientists Virginia Dale, Keith Kline, John Wiens and Joseph Fargione review the current research on biofuel production and its potential effects on ecosystems. They also analyze the social, economic and ecological challenges of biofuel production and the most effective routes to developing sustainable, renewable fuel alternatives.

Biofuels are liquid fuels derived from biological materials, such as plant stems and stalks, vegetable oils, forest products or waste materials. The raw materials, called feedstock, can be grown specifically for fuel purposes or can be derived from existing sources such as agricultural residue or municipal garbage.

"There are several methods of biofuel production, all of which affect the ecological systems around us in ways that can reap benefits if feedstock type, management, transport and production choices are appropriate for the setting," says Virginia Dale from Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, TN. "In order to balance increasing demands on land for urban, industrial and agricultural use, policies need to incorporate socioeconomic and ecological principles in view of current and past land uses. Existing research provides the basis for weighing the costs and benefits of the different options for feedstocks, management and production within an overall design for sustainability of ecosystem services within a region."

The report addresses feedstock options and their potential land-use effects, the influences of farm policies on allocating acreage, the comp
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Contact: Katie Kline
katie@esa.org
202-833-8773 x211
Ecological Society of America
Source:Eurekalert

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