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Biomass Energy: Carbon Neutral or Not?
Study Assesses Economic Benefits of Biomass Energy on Rural Communities
OPINION: Middlebury College Declares Carbon Neutrality, Thanks to Biomass
OPINION: Middlebury Biomass Not Carbon Neutral
– by Prachi Patel, January 26, 2017, Anthropocene
Many climate policies and models consider biomass carbon-neutral. The argument is that carbon emitted during burning the biomass is balanced out by the carbon that plants and trees sequester. But that understanding is flawed.
Biomass is indeed renewable, and burning biomass or biomass-derived fuels can offset fossil fuel use. However, cultivating and harvesting biomass, transporting it, and processing it for energy or to make liquid fuels all emits greenhouse gases. Exactly how the biomass is used—whether directly or turned into fuel—also makes a difference.
– January 24, 2017, Phys.org
To make biofuels, tiny microbes can be used to break down plant cells. As part of that digestive process, specialized enzymes break down cellulose—a major molecule that makes plant cell walls rigid. Scientists showed that an enzyme, from the bacterial glycoside hydrolase family 12, plays an unexpectedly important role in breaking down a hard-to-degrade crystalline form of cellulose. Surprisingly, the enzyme breaks apart the cellulose via a random mechanism unlike other hydrolases.
Breaking down cellulose is a major challenge in developing more efficient strategies for converting plant biomass to fuels and chemicals. The discovery of a specialized enzyme that is highly effective at breaking down rigid plant cell wall components could be harnessed to solve this challenge.
– January 20, 2017, Phys.org
Photo: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Using corn and soybeans as their testing ground, researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory devised methods to peer into the mechanisms that modulate crop yield variability. They used statistical models to examine how climate variability impacts yields of these popular bioenergy crops at the county level. Among climate factors, the team showed that temperature is predominant in corn-growing counties, both by volume and percentage of production. Precipitation has a similar impact. The amount of energy from the sun, or radiation, has a much smaller effect USA-wide on both soybeans and corn.
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Cellulosic Biofuels, Food Security and Land Rights
On December 15 we spoke with Kelly Stone, Policy Analyst for ActionAid USA, who discusses a new cellulosic biofuels paper along with concerns related to food security and land rights.
– by Chris Fry, December 2, 2016, Courthouse News
Graphic: Alternative Fuels Data Center
Government officials testified before the Senate on Thursday that sluggish development of ethanol and other biofuels has hampered attainment of the Renewable Fuel Standard.
Enacted in 2005, the Renewable Fuel Standard or RSF requires that all transportation fuel sold in the United States contain a minimum amount of renewable fuels.
The Senate Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs and Federal Management called a hearing Thursday afternoon to look at two new reports from the Government Accountability Office on the standard’s feasibility.