Navigation Links
Biofuels Sustainability

The Ecological Society of America, the nations professional organization of 10,000 ecological scientists, today released a position statement ( that offers the ecological principles necessary for biofuels to help decrease dependence on fossil fuels and reduce carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to global climate change. The Society warns that the current mode of biofuels production will degrade the nations natural resources and will keep biofuels from becoming a viable energy option.

Current grain-based ethanol production systems damage soil and water resources in the U.S. and are only profitable in the context of tax breaks and tariffs, says ESA. Future systems based on a combination of cellulosic materials and grain could be equally degrading to the environment, with potentially little carbon savings, unless steps are taken now that incorporate principles of ecological sustainability.

Three ecological principles are necessary:

1) SYSTEMS THINKING: Looking at the complete picture of how much energy is produced versus how much is consumed by extracting and transporting the crops used for biofuels. A systems approach seeks to avoid or minimize undesirable production side effects such as soil erosion and contamination of groundwater. Consistent monitoring is critical to ensure that biofuel production is sustainable.

2) CONSERVATION OF ECOSYSTEM SERVICES: Maximizing crop yield without regard to negative side effects is easy. On the other hand, growing crops and retaining the other services provided by the land is far more challenging, but very much worth the effort. For example, lower yields from an unfertilized native prairie may be acceptable in light of the other benefits, such as minimized flooding, fewer pests, groundwater recharge, and improved water quality because no fertilizer is needed.

3) SCALE ALIGNMENT: How agriculture is managed matters at the individual farm, regional, and global level. Policies must provide incentives for managing land in a sustainable way. They should also encourage the development of biofuels from various sources.

The current focus on ethanol from corn illustrates the risks of exploiting a single source of biomass for biofuel production, says ESA.

Continuously-grown corn leads to heavy use of fertilizers, early return of land in conservation programs to production, and the conversion of marginal lands to high-intensity cropping. All of these bring with them well-known environmental problems associated with intensive farming: persistent pest insects and weeds, pollution of groundwater, greater irrigation demands, less wildlife diversity, and the release of more carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that contributes to global climate change. Ironically, one of the touted benefits of biofuels is to help alleviate global climate change, a benefit that is considerably diluted under a high-intensity agriculture scenario.

The Ecological Society of America will contribute more to this timely issue in a few months when it convenes a conference devoted to the ecological dimensions of biofuels. The conference, which will be held on March 10, 2008 in Washington, DC, will bring together a wide variety of experts in the biofuels arena. The conference will cover the various sources of biofuelsagriculture and grasslands, rangelands, and forestsand will encompass the private sector and socioeconomic perspectives. Jose Goldemberg, Global Energy Assessment Council & Universidade de Sao Paulo, Brazil, will give the keynote address.

Like other organizations, ESA is also concerned about the hardship on the nations poor communities as higher crop prices drive up the cost of food.

It has been said that biofuels have achieved cult-like status and in the rush it is only too easy to overlook the big picture of environmental implications. Iowa alone has planted more than a third of its land surface with corn and, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, the federal government has some 20 laws and incentives to boost ethanol use.

A biofuels infrastructure that incorporates systems thinking, conserves ecosystem services, and encompasses multiple scales can best serve U.S. citizens, the economy, and the environment.


Contact: Nadine Lymn
Ecological Society of America

Related biology news :

1. Ceres and Texas A&M to develop and market high-biomass sorghum for biofuels
2. If corn is biofuels king, tropical maize may be emperor
3. The race for biofuels driving alternative sources of biomass
4. Smithsonian scientists highlight environmental impacts of biofuels
5. Alaska graduate program in sustainability receives $3.2 million award
6. Food and environmental sustainability focus of ASA-CSSA-SSSA Annual Meetings
Post Your Comments:
(Date:10/29/2015)... BOSTON , Oct. 29, 2015  Connected health ... phenomena driving the explosion of technology-enabled health and wellness, ... his new book, The Internet of Healthy ... apps, sensors or smartphones even existed, Dr. Kvedar, vice ... model of health care delivery, moving care from the ...
(Date:10/27/2015)... , October 27, 2015 ... Semantic Gaze Mapping technology (ASGM) automatically maps data from ... Tracking Glasses , so that they can be ... --> Munich, Germany , October 28-29, ... maps data from mobile eye tracking videos created with ...
(Date:10/26/2015)... 2015  Delta ID Inc., a company focused on ... PC devices, announced its ActiveIRIS® technology powers the iris ... launched by NTT DOCOMO, INC in Japan ... smartphone to include iris recognition technology, after a very ... in May 2015, world,s first smartphone to have this ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... November 24, 2015 , ... International Society ... one of the premier annual events for pharmaceutical manufacturing: 2015 Annual Meeting. The ... where ISPE hosted the largest number of attendees in more than a decade. ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... November 24, 2015 , ... The Academy of Model ... Group (SIG), MultiGP, also known as Multirotor Grand Prix, to represent the First–Person View ... years. Many AMA members have embraced this type of racing and several new model ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... Nov. 24, 2015  Twist Bioscience, a company ... Leproust, Ph.D., Twist Bioscience chief executive officer, will ... on December 1, 2015 at 3:10 p.m. Eastern ... City. --> --> ... Twist Bioscience is on Twitter. Sign up to ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... LOS ANGELES , Nov. 24, 2015 ... a biotechnology company focused on the discovery, development and ... Marban , Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer, is scheduled to ... December 1, 2015 at 10:50 a.m. EST, at The ... York City . . ...
Breaking Biology Technology: