Perhaps there is no greater societal need for scientific know-how than in finding new ways to meet future energy demands. Skyrocketing gas prices, an uncertain oil supply, increasing demand from around the world, and the looming threat of climate change have made identifying and developing realistic energy alternatives a national priority.
For Biodesign Institute researcher Bruce Rittmann, the threat of global warming also presents a significant opportunity for innovation and fresh solutions to today's energy challenges.
"Beginning with the Industrial Revolution, the unprecedented expansions of human population and economic activity have been based on combusting fossil fuels," said Rittmann. "Today, fossil fuels provide 80 percent of the energy needs to run human society worldwide: 34 percent petroleum, 32 percent coal, and 14 percent natural gas."
In a new Perspective article published in the journal Biotechnology and Bioengineering, Rittmann points the way toward developing bioenergy as the best realistic alternative to meet our current and future energy needs while cutting back on the use of fossil fuels. Rittmann directs the Center for Environmental Biotechnology and is a professor in the Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.
"The only way that human society has a realistic way of slowing and reversing global warming is bioenergy; and it has to be bioenergy that is done right," said Rittmann, who leads many of Biodesign's sustainability-themed research projects. "Most critically, we need to be able to have bioenergy sources that work on a very, very large scale."
Besides the scalability issues of bioenergy, any technologies developed must also be able to produce energy while minimizing damage to the environment or affecting the world's food supply.
For Rittmann, the most obvious renewable-energy solution one that passes the tests of scalabilit
|Contact: Joe Caspermeyer|
Arizona State University