Cellulosic biofuels are being looked at as a sustainable way to meet energy needs in the future. Experts with The Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Centre believe the liquid energy harvested from grasses and wood is a real possibility.
Funded by the U.S Department of Energy, the Great Lakes Bioenergy research team has been examining over a decade of empirical research on the emerging principles for managing cellulosic biofuel. They say if a few hurdles can be addressed, cellulosic biofuels have potential to be green fuel to displace petroleum use and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Professor of Ecosystem Science at Michigan State University and lead author of the study, Phil Robertson says cellulosic biofuels have much more potential than many had originally thought.
Cellulosic biofuel comes from the stringy fiber of a plant, as opposed to the seeds or actual fruit. One hurdle is acquiring land to produce cellulosic biofuels on a large scale. A number of factors go into producing large crops. The last thing the researchers want is to do is create food security problems, or see depletion of ground water supplies once millions of acres of crops are planted. One possible approach they have thought about is planting in areas that do not have the nutrients to support food production, but can still sustain life. This would eliminate the problem of jeopardizing food supply, while also providing biodiversity benefits.
Choosing crops is a big factor. They believe leaning towards a native perennial species could benefit annual crops, but finding a crop that is suitable for all locations is a bit of a challenge. Some areas thrive with mixed species crops. When caring for the crops, careful consideration has to be given to what fertilizers will be used. Nitrogen fertilizers are out of the question since they impact global warming.
While there is no perfect system today, the researchers are suggesting that they have enough information at their fingertips now to form policies that can help them begin the process of producing sustainable biofuels. Professor Robertson told MSU today that the recent project not only sets the stage to help the climate, but also the economy and environmental sustainability in general.