– 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.
– November 26, 2016, Farm and Dairy
Photo: Farm and Dairy
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has finalized the increases in renewable fuel volume requirements across all categories of biofuels under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program.
In a required annual rulemaking, the Nov. 23 action finalizes the volume requirements and associated percentage standards for cellulosic biofuel, advanced biofuel, and total renewable fuel for 2017, and for biomass-based diesel for 2018.
“Renewable fuel volumes continue to increase across the board compared to 2016 levels,” said Janet McCabe, the agency’s acting assistant administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation. “These final standards will boost production, providing for ambitious yet achievable growth of biofuels in the transportation sector.”
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– by Erin Voegele, November 16, 2016, Biomass Magazine
The White House has published a mid-century strategy on decarbonization that addresses biofuels and bioenergy. On Nov. 16, the report was filed with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change under the Paris climate deal.
The White House committed to release the strategy, titled “United States Mid-Century Strategy for Deep Decarbonization,” in March. At that time, the administration made a joint statement with Canada that indicated the two countries would work together to implement the Paris agreement as soon as feasible. In addition to implementing their respective Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, the leaders of both countries also committed to completing mid-century, long-term low greenhouse gas emission development strategies pursuant to the agreement.