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I am not sure if this was posted before, but I thought the message below
might be of interest.

 

A nice weekend to all!

 

Wagner A. Vendrame
Associate Professor 
 
Department of Environmental Horticulture
Tropical Research and Education Center
IFAS - University of Florida
18905 SW 280th St
Homestead, FL 33031-3314
 
Phone: (305) 246-7001 ext. 210
Fax: (305) 246-7003
 
Website: http://vendrame.ifas.ufl.edu
<http://trec.ifas.ufl.edu/VendrameW/index.htm> 
 

 

 

________________________________

Subject: ESA Press Release: Nation's ecological scientists weigh in on
biofuels
For Immediate Release: 10 January 2008 
Contact: Nadine Lymn (202) 833-8773 x 205; [log in to unmask]

Biofuels Sustainability
Nation's ecological scientists weigh in on biofuels


The Ecological Society of America, the nation's professional 
organization of 10,000 ecological scientists, today released a position
statement (www.esa.org/pao/policyStatements/#energy) that offers the 
ecological principles necessary for biofuels to help decrease dependence
on fossil fuels and reduce carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to
global climate change.  The Society warns that the current mode of
biofuels production will degrade the nation's natural resources and will
keep biofuels from becoming a viable energy option.

"Current grain-based ethanol production systems damage soil and water
resources in the U.S. and are only profitable in the context of tax
breaks and tariffs," says ESA.  "Future systems based on a combination
of cellulosic materials and grain could be equally degrading to the
environment, with potentially little carbon savings, unless steps are 
taken now that incorporate principles of ecological sustainability."

Three ecological principles are necessary:

1)      SYSTEMS THINKING:  Looking at the complete picture of how much
energy is produced versus how much is consumed by extracting and 
transporting the crops used for biofuels.  A systems approach seeks to
avoid or minimize undesirable production side effects such as soil
erosion and contamination of groundwater.  Consistent monitoring is
critical to ensure that biofuel production is sustainable. 


2)      CONSERVATION OF ECOSYSTEM SERVICES:  Maximizing crop yield
without regard to negative side effects is easy.  On the other hand,
growing crops and retaining the other services provided by the land is 
far more challenging, but very much worth the effort.  For example,
lower yields from an unfertilized native prairie may be acceptable in
light of the other benefits, such as minimized flooding, fewer pests,
groundwater recharge, and improved water quality because no fertilizer
is needed.


3)      SCALE ALIGNMENT: How agriculture is managed matters at the
individual farm, regional, and global level.  Policies must provide 
incentives for managing land in a sustainable way. They should also
encourage the development of biofuels from various sources.

"The current focus on ethanol from corn illustrates the risks of
exploiting a single source of biomass for biofuel production," says ESA.



Continuously-grown corn leads to heavy use of fertilizers, early return
of land in conservation programs to production, and the conversion of
marginal lands to high-intensity cropping.  All of these bring with them

well-known environmental problems associated with intensive farming:
persistent pest insects and weeds, pollution of groundwater, greater
irrigation demands, less wildlife diversity, and the release of more
carbon dioxide.  Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that contributes to 
global climate change.  Ironically, one of the touted benefits of
biofuels is to help alleviate global climate change, a benefit that is
considerably diluted under a high-intensity agriculture scenario.

The Ecological Society of America will contribute more to this timely 
issue in a few months when it convenes a conference
(www.esa.org/biofuels) devoted to the ecological dimensions of biofuels.
The conference, which will be held on March 10, 2008 in Washington, DC, 
will bring together a wide variety of experts in the biofuels arena.
The conference will cover the various sources of biofuels-agriculture
and grasslands, rangelands, and forests-and will encompass the private
sector and socioeconomic perspectives.  Jose Goldemberg, Global Energy
Assessment Council & Universidade de Sao Paulo, Brazil, will give the
keynote address.

Like other organizations, ESA is also concerned about the hardship on 
the nation's poor communities as higher crop prices drive up the cost of
food.

It has been said that biofuels have achieved cult-like status and in the
rush it is only too easy to overlook the big picture of environmental 
implications.  Iowa alone has planted more than a third of its land
surface with corn and, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, the
federal government has some 20 laws and incentives to boost ethanol use.


A biofuels infrastructure that incorporates systems thinking, conserves
ecosystem services, and encompasses multiple scales can best serve U.S.
citizens, the economy, and the environment.


*****

--Note to Reporters-- Registration for the ESA Biofuels conference is
waived for reporters with recognized press credentials.  Interested
press should contact Nadine Lymn ([log in to unmask] ) to register for
"Ecological Dimensions of Biofuels."



The Ecological Society of America is the country's primary professional
organization of ecologists, representing 10,000 scientists in the United

States and around the world.  Since its founding in 1915, ESA has
pursued the promotion of the responsible application of ecological
principles to the solution of environmental problems through ESA
reports, journals, research, and expert testimony to Congress.  For more

information about the Society and its activities, visit the ESA website
at http://www.esa.org.