Bio fuels are increasingly seen as a viable alternative to the energy problem. With Brazil showing the way forward with its ethanol program major countries all over the world are planning to implement a similar model.
On the demand side, recent plans have been announced by the Bush Administration and the EU for renewable energy in the coming decades. Bush specifically pushed for Ethanol produced by Corn “to increase production of biofuels to 35 billion gallons (133 billion liters) a year by 2017, roughly seven times the present levels of five billion gallons a year, produced by corn-ethanol refineries.”
NPR has a good story on Ethanol in the US.
The EU Energy ministers agreed to raise biofuels use to a minimum of 10% by 2020 but rejected an EU-wide binding target for renewables, leaving it to member states to decide on specific objectives at national level.
China and India have been increasing their Bio-fuels production and this could make water scarce for food crops.
On the supply side, there are new sources of bio-fuels from native grass in the US.
“Biofuels represent a big part of our energy future, and this proposal represents a groundbreaking new direction,” says Julie Sibbing, National Wildlife Federation Senior Program Manager for Agriculture Policy. “Native grasses, trees, and other plants have the potential to double energy yields per acre, with just a fraction of the energy needed to produce corn-based ethanol. As these new technologies come on line, they will be key to our future clean energy production. The use of these fuels will also help stem global warming by decreasing greenhouse gas emissions and storing carbon.”
And similarly Wild Grass found in Southern Asia and Africa could potentially a bigger source of energy.
Miscanthus, a perennial grass native to subtropical and tropical regions of Africa and southern Asia, was the ideal plant for producing ethanol at a lower cost than corn, currently the most widespread source of the fuel. “To make a pound of alfalfa or spinach requires about 600 pounds of water, while to grow a pound of Miscanthus requires only about 200 pounds of water,” said Chris Somerville, professor of biological sciences at Stanford University.
New experiments are being conducted in Africa and India to create rural energy sources from bio-fuels which in turn will power cellular towers and provide cheap mobile technology in the rural areas.
Lastly, even with the growing concern of conservationists about the effect of biol-fuel production on Indonesia’s forest, the country believes that this is their best chance to provide employment and reduce poverty in the region.
While Indonesia is rich in oil and gas supplies, demand in Southeast Asia’s biggest economy is outpacing production and it is seeking alternative energy sources to secure its future. Last month foreign and domestic firms signed agreements totalling 12.4 billion dollars to develop biofuel projects to turn crops such as palm oil and sugar cane into biodiesel and bioethanol.
Over the next eight years, some five million to six million hectares (12.5 million to 15 million acres) will be planted with bio-fuel crops, he said. But just where all this land — an area far larger than Denmark and a bit smaller than Sri Lanka or the US state of West Virginia — is going to come from is what worries conservation groups concerned about deforestation.
And according to a surprising study by Netherlands-based Wetlands International and Delft Hydraulics, bio-fuel is often more polluting than fossil fuels. Drainage of vast peatland areas for oil palm plantations leads to huge emissions of carbon dioxide as drained peat decomposes very rapidly, the study released in December found.
While energy security and safeguarding the environment are concerns, he said eradicating poverty and tackling massive unemployment were the main focus of the biofuel programme. About 40 million Indonesians live below the national poverty line of 1.55 dollars a day.
Satellite data for Central and Eastern Kalimantan on Borneo island revealed about 4.5 million hectares of unproductive or degraded land which had been logged and abandoned, he said. Hamdi said this land could be improved by growing biofuel crops and provide people with jobs in an area where there were few employment opportunities.
There is always the need to balance different needs. As Indonesia is thinking of reducing poverty through bio-fuels, Europe is concerned through its renewables goal and the US is concerned about its agricultural industry. With water in the balance, this is a complex scenario to manage.
Looking from a systems perspective it is important to understand this issue from many sides.