Tuesday, February 27, 2018

How Biofuels from Plant Fibers Could Combat Global Warming

An aerial image of the research study area in southwestern Kansas. (Credit: Colorado State University) Click to Enlarge.
Scientists, companies and government agencies are hard at work on decreasing greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.  In recent years, biofuels produced from corn have emerged as a fuel source to power motor vehicles and, perhaps, airplanes.

But corn is problematic as a biofuel source material.  It's resource-intensive to grow, creates many environmental impacts, and is more useful as food.

A study from Colorado State University finds new promise for biofuels produced from switchgrass, a non-edible native grass that grows in many parts of North America.  Scientists used modeling to simulate various growing scenarios, and found a climate footprint ranging from -11 to 10 grams of carbon dioxide per mega-joule -- the standard way of measuring greenhouse gas emissions.

To compare with other fuels, the impact of using gasoline results in 94 grams of carbon dioxide per mega-joule.

The study, High resolution techno-ecological modeling of a bioenergy landscape to identify climate mitigation opportunities in cellulosic ethanol production, was published online Feb. 19 in Nature Energy.

John Field, research scientist at the Natural Resource Ecology Lab at CSU, said what the team found is significant.  "What we saw with switchgrass is that you're actually storing carbon in the soil," he said.  "You're building up organic matter and sequestering carbon."

Read more at How Biofuels from Plant Fibers Could Combat Global Warming

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