A must read for Biofuel searcher.. New Release of Biofuel Secrets ..A must read for for every US voter and concerned citizen.. challenges the reader to explore new possibilities and new mindsets that will ultimately be required if the world is truly ready to make a change.. amazon.com US onlyThe New York Times
August 12, 2009
Will 'Energy Crops' Become the Next Kudzu?
By JESSICA LEBER of ClimateWire
U.S. policies are subsidizing new energy crops that are likely to spread off the farm and wreak economic and ecological havoc, a federal advisory board cautioned yesterday.
For years, researchers have worked to develop "advanced" biofuel feeds from unconventional crops such as grasses and algae.
The goal is to enable a switch away from corn- and soy-based biofuel to cellulosic energy crops that don't compete on the food or feed market and have a smaller carbon footprint. A 2007 energy law, in fact, requires a total of 160 billion gallons of the plant-based cellulosic fuels by 2022 that these crops would produce.
As a result, researchers are now selecting, breeding and engineering species that demand less water, fertilizer and agricultural land and grow year-round at high yields.
But it is often exactly these traits, such as drought tolerance or pathogen resistance, that make the fuels of the future ripe to become invasive species and cause widespread damage. The issue highlights another potential complication in what has been a bumpy road in the development of the biofuels industry.
"Absent strategic mitigation efforts, there is substantial risk that some biofuel crops will escape cultivation and cause socio-economic and/or ecological harm," the white paper, adopted by the Invasive Species Advisory Committee, warns.
The group of outside experts advises a federal council tasked with coordinating invasive species policies among 13 departments and agencies. It called on the U.S. government to take major steps to combat the substantial risks from biofuels as it promotes and funds biofuels development.
Invasive species are already costly
Every year, invasive plants cost the United States a minimum of $34 billion in losses and control costs, according to one study the group's paper cites. The potential scale of biofuel cultivation, at more than 150 million acres, provides ample opportunity to add to those costs, the committee says.
Some proposed biofuel crops already are invasive species.
One of the most alarming examples is giant reed, or Arundo donax, according to Joseph DiTomaso, the University of California, Davis, weed specialist who drafted the paper.
The grass grows in dense clumps up to 20 feet tall and is classified a noxious weed in California and in Texas, as well as other areas of the South. But in Florida, researchers are looking to plant even more of it as a biofuel crop, he said.
Proposed energy crops like miscanthus and reed canary grass also are already invasive species in some areas of the world, he said. And jatropha and algae, crops that could one day supplant jet fuels used in aviation, also pose high invasion risk, according to the Global Invasive Species Programme.
Other heavily publicized biofuel crops, such as switchgrass, look to be safer bets in the United States, DiTomaso said.
The laws of unintended consequences are well-known to anyone familiar with the history of invasive species.
A field plowed with good intentions
One of the 10 worst weeds in the world, known as Johnson grass, was originally brought from the Mediterranean to the United States in 1830 as forage material for livestock. Today it's invasive in 23 states, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and spreads aggressively in the South.
And kudzu -- the colorful "mile a minute" vine that has engulfed the southern United States -- was first imported from Japan to ornament gardens in the late 19th century.
The committee has made nine recommendations to avoid a more modern disaster.
It calls, for example, for long-term flexible funding for an early detection and rapid response system to monitor and respond to potential biofuel crop invasions.
But it also says that agencies need to craft proactive policies that minimize these risks in advance. It recommends evaluating each candidate biofuel crop in the region where it is proposed for cultivation and encouraging the use of low-risk species or cultivars.
Examples might be plants that are sterile or can't survive outside of the cultivated environment. Planting, harvesting, field abandonment, transport and storage practices should also be tailored to combat the threat, they said.
Selecting the right region is important, too. The committee recommended that federally supported research and demonstration projects select sites that minimize escape potential.
The issue goes beyond U.S. borders. The International Union for Conservation of Nature is also drafting guidelines on biofuels and invasive species. In Africa, it says, many governments are rushing to encourage biofuels development. But there, especially in countries lacking the resources to manage the risk of invasion, the threat has received scant attention, the group says.
Copyright 2009 E&E Publishing. All Rights Reserved.
For more news on energy and the environment, visit www.climatewire.net.
"Conservationists must therefore assess both current and future distributions of species."
"One critical question is whether models Š can Š provide robust predictions of future distributions under climate change."
Miguel B. Araújo and Carsten Rahbek.
"How Does Climate Change Affect Biodiversity?"
Science, Vol. 313, September 8, 2006
Purposes: To gather and transmit information about the the ecological impact of global warming, to promote public and conservationist education about the ecological impact of global warming, and to identify and encourage appropriate policy for species affected by global warming. The related topic of how to reduce emissions, although crucially important, will be left for other settings.
To facilitate free discussion without adherence to a "party line," messages posted by members of this list represent the opinions of the individual members and may not reflect the opinions of all members or the list's founders.
FAIR USE NOTICE email@example.com sometimes circulates copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. The material is being made available for purposes of education and discussion of the ecological impact of global warming . We believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in relevant national laws.
In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in human and environmental rights for educational, personal and non-commercial use only.
All efforts are made to provide accurate, timely pieces, though ultimate responsibility for verifying all information rests with the reader. Gwspecies@lists.onenw.org cannot guarantee that the information it circulates is complete and correct or be liable for any loss incurred as a result of its use. Nor can firstname.lastname@example.org be responsible for any subsequent use of the material. Anyone intending to use this material for commercial or other purposes not covered by Title 17 U.S.C Section 107 must contact the copyright holder for permission.
Hinesburg, Vermont, U.S.A.
office: (802) 482 2848
mobile: (802) 735-7794
skype: rachel smolker