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Biofuels Sustainability
Date:1/10/2008

The Ecological Society of America, the nations professional organization of 10,000 ecological scientists, today released a position statement (www.esa.org/pao/policyStatements/#energy) 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 ind
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Contact: Nadine Lymn
nadine@esa.org
202-833-8773
Ecological Society of America
Source:Eurekalert

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