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Can plant-based ethanol save us from our fossil fuel addiction?

On November 1415, over 40 scientists will convene at the Institute of Ecosystem Studies (IES) in Millbrook, New York to discuss the future of biofuel production in the United States. Participants will include some of our nations leading biofuel experts, including Drs. David Pimentel (Cornell University), Charles Hall (SUNY-ESF), and G. Philip Robertson (Michigan State).

Corn and soy-based ethanol have been touted as sustainable alternatives to fossil fuel. Participants will explore the ecological ramifications of a landscape awash in a monoculture of chemically-dependent, genetically modified crops. Consideration will also be given to the impact that agricultural biofuels have on food systems.

The workshop will also focus on biofuels that are created using biomass from natural ecosystems. Instead of planting a sea of corn, this alternative relies on harvesting managed natural areas, such as young forests. During their growing period, plants in these ecosystems provide valuable services, such as carbon sequestration and water purification.

IES Forest Ecologist Dr. Charles Canham, one of the workshops conveners, comments, Talk of energy use, energy supply, and the impact of energy on climate dominates newspapers, congressional hallways, and bumper stickers in America. Biofuels are being embraced as a solution, but there is a real lack of research on the sustainability of large-scale and long-term biomass production.

Conference proceedings will be used to provide research recommendations to the National Science Foundation. They will also be communicated to decision makers that need to understand both the promise and the limitations of current biofuel models.

Workshop participants hail from a range of academic institutions and organizations, including Brown University, Dartmouth College, Michigan State University, UC Berkeley, University of Wisconsin, the National Science Foundation, the Soil Science Society of America, the Nature Conservancy, and Woods Hole Research Center.


Contact: Lori M. Quillen
845-677-7600 x233
Institute of Ecosystem Studies

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