Brazil, China, India, the southern republics of the former Soviet Union, Australia and the United States all have large areas of land with significant potential for growing bioenergy crops.
"The ability of biomass energy to be a significant fraction of a country's energy demands is actually greatest in the countries that have a combination of significant amounts of productive land and relatively low energy consumption," Field said. "That is mainly countries in the middle part of Africa, Mongolia, areas that are at the very early stage of developing an energy infrastructure and are really poised to take advantage of the bioenergy resources that are available to them."
Crops can be converted to bioenergy in a number of ways, Field said. "At the low-tech extreme, biomass can be burned in indigenous stoves. At the high tech extreme, it can be fed into energy-efficient power plants or it can be converted into liquid transportation fuels."
A regular coal power plant can have up to about 5 percent biomass mixed in without experiencing any significant loss in efficiency, Field said. The net effect on carbon in the atmosphere is nil, because the carbon released during burning has been pulled by the plant from the atmosphere during photosynthesis.
"If you do that in situations where the coal power plant has carbon capture and storage, you are actually having a net path moving CO2 out of the atmosphere into the plant and then into long-term underground storage," Field said. "So this is one of the ways you could potentially think about actively decreasing the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere."
"I think that is very attractive - maybe not for 2010, but I hope by 2020 we have some systems doing that," he said.
In the big picture, limitations on the prospects for sustainable biomass energ
|Contact: Louis Bergeron|