URBANA, Ill. If the hottest new plant grown as a biofuel crop is approved based solely on its greenhouse gas emission profile, its potential as the next invasive species may not be discovered until it's too late. In response to this need to prevent such invasions, researchers at the University of Illinois have developed both a set of regulatory definitions and provisions and a list of 49 low-risk biofuel plants from which growers can choose.
Lauren Quinn, an invasive plant ecologist at U of I's Energy Biosciences Institute, recognized that most of the news about invasive biofuel crops was negative and offered few low-risk alternatives to producers. She and her colleagues set out to create a list of low-risk biofuel crops that can be safely grown for conversion to ethanol but realized in the process that regulations were needed to instill checks and balances in the system.
"There are not a lot of existing regulations that would prevent the planting of potentially invasive species at the state or federal levels. For example, there are currently only four states (Florida, Mississippi, Oregon, and Maryland) that have any laws relating to how bioenergy crops can be grown and that include any language about invasive speciesand, for the most part, when those words do appear, they are either not defined or poorly defined," said Quinn.
In approving new biofuel products, Quinn said that the EPA doesn't formally consider invasiveness at all just greenhouse gas emissions related to their production. "Last summer, the EPA approved two known invaders, Arundo donax (giant reed) and Pennisetum purpurem (napier grass), despite public criticism," added U of I professor of agricultural law A. Bryan Endres, who co-authored the research to define legislative language for potentially invasive bioenergy feedstocks.
Part of the problem is that there is no clear scientific definition of what it means to be invasive. The team of researchers used f
|Contact: Debra Levey Larson|
University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences