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News articles on bioenergy
Mongabay.com news articles on bioenergy in blog format. Updated regularly.
(01/25/2007) In his State of the Union Address Tuesday night, U.S. President George W. Bush highlighted ethanol fuel production as a means to improve domestic security by reducing dependence on foreign oil while at the same time helping to fight global warming. His call echoes a broader shift in sentiment among business and political leaders who believe that biofuels -- liquid fuels produced 'energy crops' including sugarcane, corn, soybeans, oil palms -- are a key future liquid energy source. In fact, next week, biofuels are likely to take a prominent position at the European Union's 'Sustainable Energy Week' in Brussels when 650 delegates will listen to speeches by the likes of Al Gore and UK foreign minister Margaret Beckett. With all the enthusiasm it may seem that biofuels are the end-all solution. A new report argues that this is not the case. In its briefing, 'International trade in biofuels: Good for development? And good for environment?' the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) cautions policymakers not to get caught up in all the hype. IIED warns that serious concerns still remain when it comes to the widespread adoption of these renewable energy sources.
China invests in $5.5B biofuels project in Borneo, New Guinea
(01/18/2007) China has agreed to invest in a $5.5 billion biofuels project on the islands of New Guinea and Borneo. The plan promises to be controversial among environmentalists who say that it will destroy some of the world's most biodiverse -- and threatened -- ecosystems on the planet.
Are biofuels good or bad for the environment?
(12/15/2006) Sometimes hailed as a savior from global warming and foreign oil dependence, biofuels are as often criticized for deforestation and pollution. So, are biofuels good or bad for the environment? Grist, an independent online environmental magazine, examines the question in a new series devoted to biofuels.
Biomimicry of native prairie yields more bioenergy than corn ethanol
(12/07/2006) Diverse mixtures of plants that mimic the native prairie ecosystem are a better source of biofuels than corn grain ethanol or soybean biodiesel according to a new paper published in the Dec. 8 issue of the journal Science. Led by David Tilman, a biology professor at the University of Minnesota, the research shows that "mixtures of native perennial grasses and other flowering plants provide more usable energy per acre than corn grain ethanol or soybean biodiesel and are far better for the environment," according to a release from the University of Minnesota.
Switchgrass-based ethanol could cost $1 per gallon, reduce foreign oil dependence
(12/05/2006) Genetic engineering of switchgrass, a native prairie plant, could reduce the price of ethanol to $1 per gallon according to a plant geneticist at the University of Rhode Island.
Add invasive species status to list of biofuel concerns
(09/22/2006) High energy prices over the past couple years have fueled interest in biofuels, which proponents say are less damaging to the environment and provide energy security not afforded by foreign oil and gas imports. Nevertheless, accompanying their rise in visibility, have been concerns over their environmental impact of converting natural vegetation for their production. Now scientists warn that some biofuel crops pose a risk as invasive species.
Genetically modified tree could be used for cellulosic ethanol biofuel
(08/24/2006) A tree that can reach 90 feet in six years and be grown as a row crop on fallow farmland could represent a major replacement for fossil fuels. Purdue University researchers are using genetic tools in an effort to design trees that readily and inexpensively can yield the substances needed to produce alternative transportation fuel.
Biodiesel Moves to the Energy Mainstream
(08/14/2006) Country music legend Willie Nelson and biological engineer San Fernando have a lot in common. The common link between the singer and the Mississippi State University professor is biodiesel, a fuel for diesel engines produced by blending petroleum diesel with refined vegetable oil. Nelson is promoting biodiesel as an alternative to pure petroleum-based diesel and as a way to support U.S. farmers. Fernando is researching ways to make production of the fuel easier and more cost-effective.
Biofuels can lead to deforestation says Unilever executive
(08/11/2006) While biofuels are hyped for their potential to off-set fossil fuel use, the shift toward their use should proceed with caution warns Alan Jope, vice president of consumer products giant Unilever. In an August 7 interview with The Times, Jope said that the environmental drawbacks of biofuels is overlooked.
Cellulosic ethanol fuels environmental concerns
(08/06/2006) In recent months, high fuel prices and national security concerns have sparked interest in biofuels. Cellulosic ethanol, which can be derived from virtually any plant matter including farm waste, looks particularly promising. The U.S. Department of Energy projects that cellulosic conversion technology could reduce the cost of producing ethanol by as much as 60 cents per gallon by 2015. Green groups see cellulosic ethanol as a carbon neutral energy source that could be used to fight the build up of atmospheric carbon dioxide responsible for global warming.
Corn waste potentially useful for more than ethanol
(07/19/2006) After the corn harvest, whether for cattle feed or corn on the cob, farmers usually leave the stalks and stems in the field, but now, a team of Penn State researchers think corn stover can be used not only to manufacture ethanol, but to generate electricity directly.
Soybean biodiesel has higher net energy benefit than corn ethanol
(07/11/2006) The first comprehensive analysis of the full life cycles of soybean biodiesel and corn grain ethanol shows that biodiesel has much less of an impact on the environment and a much higher net energy benefit than corn ethanol, but that neither can do much to meet U.S. energy demand.
New process makes fuel from simple sugar
(06/29/2006) The soaring prices of oil and natural gas have sparked a race to make transportation fuels from plant matter instead of petroleum. Both biodiesel and gasoline containing ethanol are starting to make an impact on the market.
Congress deals blow to bioenergy market
(05/16/2006) In a set back to the growing biofuels market and American energy consumers, House Majority Leader John Boehner said Monday he will not push legislation to reduce the U.S. tariff on ethanol imports. Thus, the United States will keep its 54-cent-a-gallon tariff on imported ethanol despite a warning from the Department of Energy that domestic ethanol supplies will fall short this summer and will need to reply on foreign fuel.
US has low-cost alternatives to oil; peak oil frenzy and human-induced climate change avoidable says Columbia University
(05/14/2006) Surging oil prices have fueled calls for the United States to develop new sources of affordable and secure domestic energy. While renewable energy -- especially biofuels, wind power, and solar technologies -- is an area of particular interest, researchers from the Earth Institute at Columbia University say that the U.S. already has relatively low-cost alternatives to imported oil, including coal, tar sands, and oil shale. These resources can be extracted and used at a lower cost to the environment than some might expect. In a report published in the most recent issue of Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Klaus S. Lackner and Jeffrey D. Sachs argue that "coal alone could satisfy the country's energy needs of the twenty-first century." They say that "coal liquefaction, or the process of deriving liquid fuels from coal, is already being used in places and with expanded infrastructure could provide gasoline, diesel fuel and jet fuel at levels well below current prices." Further, Sachs and Lackner suggest that "environmental constraints such as increased carbon dioxide emissions arising from greater use of coal and other fossil fuels could be avoided for less than 1 percent of gross world product by 2050," a sum far less than others have estimated.
Carbon savings from biofuels quantified
(05/12/2006) A British fuels company has quantified carbon dioxide emission savings made through the sale of biofuels. Greenergy Fuels Ltd, which supplies biofuels retailed through supermarket forecourts, said it supplied 17.1 million liters of bioethanol and biodiesel, saving more than 40,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions during the first quarter of 2006. The firm compared this savings to taking more than 50,000 average family cars off the road for three months.
High oil prices fuel bioenergy push
(05/09/2006) High oil prices and growing concerns over climate change are driving investment and innovation in the biofuels sector as countries and industry increasingly look towards renewable bioenergy to replace fossil fuels. Bill Gates, the world's richest man, has recently invested $84 million in an American ethanol company while global energy gluttons ranging from the United States to China are setting long-term targets for the switch to such fuels which potentially offer a secure domestic source of renewable energy and fewer environmental headaches. Biofuels are fuels that are derived from biomass, including recently living organisms like plants or their metabolic byproducts like cow manure. Unlike fossil fuels -- like coal, petroleum, and natural gas, which are finite resources -- biofuels are a renewable source of energy that can be replenished on an ongoing basis. In general, biofuels are biodegradable and, when burned, have fewer emissions than traditional hydrocarbon-based fuels. Typically, biofuels are blended with traditional petroleum-based fuels, though it is possible to run existing diesel, engines purely on biodiesel, something which holds a great deal of promise as an alternative energy source to replace fossil fuels. Further, because biofuels are generally derived from plants which absorb carbon from the atmosphere as they grow, biofuel production offers the potential to help offset carbon dioxide emissions and mitigate climate change.
Scientists closer to understanding key to cellulosic biofuels
(04/20/2006) Cellulose -- a fibrous molecule found in all plants -- is the most abundant biological material on Earth. It is also a favored target of renewable, plant-based biofuels research. Despite overwhelming interest, scientists know relatively little about how plant cells synthesize individual cellulose fibers.
Biofuels can replace about 30 percent of fuel needs
(02/01/2006) With world oil demand growing, supplies dwindling and the potential for weather- and conflict-related supply interruptions, other types of fuels and technologies are needed to help pick up the slack.
Ethanol more energy-efficient than oil, finds study
(01/26/2006) Using ethanol -- alcohol produced from corn or other plants -- instead of gasoline is more energy-efficient that oil say researchers at the University of California, Berkeley.
Eco-friendly palm oil coming soon, criteria could result in cleaner biofuels
(11/23/2005) Consumers can soon enjoy soap, shampoos and many other products containing palm oil with a clean conscience following overwhelmingly acceptance by the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) -- a group of producers, buyers, retailers, financial institutions and NGOs -- on a set of criteria for the responsible production of palm oil.
Biofuels threaten rainforests as important European Commission decision lies ahead
(10/01/2005) To meet Kyoto protocol commitments, various European and other governments are encouraging the use of biomass as fuel (biofuel) in transport and electricity. Biofuels are mostly carbon neutral, and switching from fossil fuels to biodiesel is promoted as a solution to climate change.
High oil prices make Asia pursue green energy
(09/09/2005) For energy-hungry Asian governments, the answer could literally be blowing in the wind. Across the region, renewable energy such as solar, wind and geothermal power is gaining ever greater credence as a way to curb the region's appetite for oil and cut runaway import bills.
China funds massive palm oil plantation in rainforest of Borneo
(08/12/2005) Plans to create the world's largest palm oil plantation along Indonesia's mountainous border with Malaysia could have a devastating impact on the forests, wildlife and indigenous people of Borneo, warns World Wildlife Fund.
Renewable energy in China, a strategic future?
(08/02/2005) China's failed bid for American petroleum firm Unocal may prompt it to further focus on its development of alternative energy sources.
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