Global Sustainable Bioenergy Initiative Discussed at World Congress

Biofuels & Climate Change

Professor Lee Lynd of Dartmouth, who is also the CSO of Mascoma, addressed a plenary session the 2009 BIO World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology. He gave additional insight on the article he coauthored with David Tilman et al in a recent issue of Science and discussed the initiative that led to the article.

According to Lynd, it has been suggessted that we should forego the biofuel option, but before we do we should ask three questions: What are the alternatives? What benefits do we miss if we forego biofuels? and Can biofuel land use challenges be resolved gracefully.

Lynd says the new initiative starts from the premise that very large scale biofuel production — enough to meet 25 percent of world demand, which is the threshhold for making a significant contribution to oil replacement and environmental benefits — can be reconciled with food production and land use.

Lynd outlined the choice as either planning for a world of 10 billion people who have access to modern energy services or accepting a world of poverty.

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3 Responses to Global Sustainable Bioenergy Initiative Discussed at World Congress

  1. Mouli Cohen says:

    I think poverty is something that must be taken more seriously, even in countries inside the developed world. Biofuel technology should be emphasized in these developed nations and be funded by the private sector abroad. We’ve entered a world of global investment and inter-prosperity, so investing in a biofuels infrastructure could be a path towards addressing poverty worldwide. It will take more funding -which is tight enough as is- and more political force to spend the necessary money.

  2. August Temu says:

    Bio-energy use is certainly a credible and attactive approach. The challenge lies in its production, particularly focusing on who produces, on which land and who benefits. For instance if we look at developing countries in Africa, Latin America and parts of Asia , there is plenty of land for biomass production. The key challenge is to ensure that bio-enrgy production is done in such a manner that it primarily benefits the poor of these continents. This means that deliberate efforts must be directed at enabling the production, processing and utilization of the bioenergy to be br and for the countries involved. Not only would this approach reduce costs, it would benefit the poor economies and raise the technological capacity. There are policy issues here which must be sorted out. In other words, profitability is not a sufficient criterion. Who profits? That is the issue.

    The second point for discussion is the impact on other uses of biomass, especially as fodder for livestock and wild animals, or as mulch to re-charge the fertility of soils. Would massive harvesting of biomass result in ‘nutrient mining’ with the ultimate result of land denudation and subsequent desertification? How much can the land continue to produce without applying inorganic fertlizers. Note that application of fertilizers would defeat the whole purpose.

    These issues should be discussed intensively at global scale to arrive at models that will be ecologically robust and economically attractive.

  3. August Temu says:

    Through support to smallholder farmers it is possible to produce massive biomass for energy use. The effort can be designed to increast incomes significantly, especially if processing can also be carried out at the villace level, thus creating employment especially for rural youth an women.

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