September 13, 2010….Ames, Iowa. A broad scientific consensus indicates that biomass crops and residues can eventually replace fossil fuels. This contention fits with the commitment from the United States to expand the role of biomass as an energy source to decrease petroleum imports, decrease greenhouse gas emissions, and increase economic growth. Hopeful statements and general goals, however, can eventually fade in the big picture of headlines, proposals, debates, and real world economics. Specific research activities and practical applications clarify how the abstract vision becomes a reality, and a new publication from the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST) provides readers with scientific information regarding an important part of the infrastructure needed to implement the country’s energy goals.
This commentary, Convergence of Agriculture and Energy: IV. Infrastructure Considerations for Biomass Harvest, Transportation, and Storage, adds a fourth part to CAST’s timely series regarding biofuels. A panel of experts has outlined key issues regarding biomass crops by examining the harvest, transportation, and storage of cellulosic material. Task Force Chair Jerry Fruin indicates that successful biomass feedstock production depends on the smooth blending of successful approaches to these three logistical necessities. The University of Minnesota professor also points out the advantages of looking at specific new developments. As he stated, “It is better to focus on the key considerations learned from the case studies.”
While many are supportive of biofuel efforts, implementation needs research and development. The task force authors contend that “the sustainable collection of biomass feedstocks is an important consideration for cellulosic ethanol production.” Citing a number of research activities aimed at providing solutions to specific processes within the feedstock chain, they look at biomass collection, storage, and costs, and then highlight results from studies regarding switchgrass and corncobs.
Infrastructure is one key part of the biofuels puzzle, and as Dr. John Bonner (CAST Executive Vice President/CEO) said, “This commentary adds another valuable component to our four-part series regarding the convergence of agriculture and energy. Researchers, farmers, and policy-makers need science-based information to implement solid practices in this crucial, expanding field of bioenergy.”
The full text of CAST Commentary QTA2010-1 is available online only at the CAST website, www.cast-science.org, along with many of CAST’s other scientific publications. All CAST Issue Papers and Commentaries are FREE. CAST is an international consortium of 32 scientific and professional societies. It assembles, interprets, and communicates credible science-based information regionally, nationally, and internationally to legislators, regulators, policymakers, the media, the private sector, and the public.
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