Some quick responses from here. Regarding your thoughts on competition
for water, I think your logic is sound where irrigation is used.
However, 75% of agricultural land is not irrigated in developing
(http://www.fao.org/docrep/w5146e/w5146e0a.htm#irrigated%20land), I know
a lower percentage of agricultural land is irrigated in the US (I can't
find a reference right now) and virtually no forest land is irrigated.
So producing biomass doesn't necessarily use irrigation. On the flip
side, the likes of Dr. Rockwood in SFRC do research in using reclaimed
municipal waste (sewer) water to increase biomass production and provide
a service by using the water and removing nutrients from the water,
which is non-potable and represents an environmental liability. As
populations grow, so does this resource, unfortunately (unless maybe we
start using compositing toilets or something, regardless we will still
have huge amounts of waste water from some sources).
Regarding the combustion question: As biomass and biosolids are burned,
they release CO2. However, if the same amount of biomass and biosolids
decay naturally, they also emit the same amount of CO2 through
decomposition. If the decomposition is above ground, then the return to
the atmosphere happens as fast as the decomposition. Some environmental
benefits are derived from some resources (mulch from wood, compost from
organics, and fertilizer from sludge), though excess resources do
accumulate. But ultimately, all organic carbon is going back to the
atmosphere in the carbon cycle.
Biomass, of course, is not "the" answer, but can be an answer.
Regards, and Merry Christmas,
Postdoctoral Research Associate
School of Forest Resources and Conservation, UF
P.O. Box 110410
Gainesville, FL 32611-0410
e-mail: [log in to unmask]
Pager and Cell: (352)246-7091
Home page: http://plaza.ufl.edu/mateo/
From: Bioenergy and Sustainable Technology Society
[mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of MARTIN,ELIZABETH J
Sent: Thursday, December 21, 2006 1:19 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Question about Biofuels overall effects
To anyone willing to address my question:
I was wondering if someone would mind directing me to some
information regarding the pros and cons of biofuel vs. petroleum
in terms of land use and water consumption.
While I fully agree that there is a dire need to reduce reliance
on petroleum and other non-renewable resources, I am concerned as
to how it balances out on the other end of the spectrum.
Currently over 1 billion people do not have access to safe
drinking water, resulting in millions deaths every year due to
unsafe and unsanitary water conditions. The main problem is the
agricultural techniques used to produce crops such as corn, wheat,
soybeans, etc. The largest problem is the net loss of water and
the destruction of land due to irrigation. From what I?ve been
reading, it appears that the main alternatives to petroleum lie in
the use of these organic materials as potential fuels. So my main
point is this, even if biofuels replace petroleum and reduce green
house gases and air pollution, won?t the result be an even bigger
problem due to water scarcity? I understand that no one can know
if this will even be a problem, but I can?t help but wondering if
biofuels are the answer, or if they are a catch 22.
I also have a slight problem with the burning of natural and human
wastes. While this does eliminate the growing problem of
landfills and the release of methane gas into the atmosphere,
isn?t it still slightly retroactive because combustion of any
material releases carbon dioxide?
I'm terribly sorry if these questions seem ridiculous or
completely off base, but I'm having trouble finding answers.
Incase anyone was wondering where I got my information on water
There is also a very informative article available at: