Tuesday 2 April 2013

Ethanol deal intended to shield environment

The Argus Leader has a report on a partnership which highlights, and aims to address, the potentially damaging impacts which second generation biofuels - such as bioethanol produced from cellulosic material including crop residues - can have on the soil, when residues are removed, rather than being incorporated:

As more leaves and stalks left over from corn, soybeans and other crops go toward producing ethanol, the U.S. Agriculture Department and DuPont have announced a partnership to ensure that the collection of the material is done in a sustainable way. The programme will develop a conservation plan to help farmers collect feedstocks in a way that protects natural resources and maintains the productivity of the land.
Officials said the goal is to protect the health of the soil, minimize the amount that makes its way into nearby waterways and allow for more efficient use of important nutrients. At the same time, farmers will be able to reap the economic benefits that come with selling their material to produce ethanol. It is voluntary for farmers to participate in the conservation plan. “What we are doing with this partnership is we’re essentially saying there are creative ways ... to make sure that conservation is not compromised or jeopardized by the use of cellulosic material,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said.

For now, the [cellulosic ethanol production] venture is contracting with farmers to remove 20 percent to 25 percent of the feed stocks when the plant, with an expected 25 million gallon capacity, begins production in early 2014 — well below what could be done sustainably.

Read more here.