According to the Science Daily release on the National Research Council report “Water Implications of Biofuels Production in the United States” released today, “the committee that wrote the report examined policy options and identified opportunities for new agricultural techniques and technologies to help minimize effects of biofuel production on water resources.”
This would be a positive thing, as noted in responses from the National Wildlife Federation and the Renewable Fuels Association.
National Wildlife Federation Senior Program Manager for Agriculture and Wetland Policy Julie Sibbing says the report highlights the need for a new Biofuels Innovation Program in the next Farm Bill.
“The report notes that cellulosic biofuels, produced from native plants like switchgrass, should have less impact on water quality per unit of energy gained,” Sibbing said in a statement. “It suggests the adoption of public policies that encourage production of energy from cellulosic alternatives. America’s water resources will be under even greater pressure in a warming climate. Moving to non-irrigated, native crops to produce ethanol will go a long way towards helping to safeguard our water resources.”
Renewable Fuels Association president Bob Dinneen noted that the ethanol industry is already moving in many of the directions the study suggests.
“As this study accurately points out, U.S. ethanol producers are rapidly developing and implementing technologies that are improving the already green footprint of the industry,” Dinneen said. “Better efficiencies at today’s ethanol biorefineries are reducing water use, improving water recycling methods and utilizing wastewater supplies to further lessen the impact, if any, a biorefinery may have on local water supplies.”
Dinneen adds that the ethanol industry is evolving so rapidly it will be unrecognizable from its present form five years from now. “Technological evolutions will provide for more efficient use of natural resources like water, further reduce already low emissions from biorefineries, and allow us to produce ethanol from less resource-intensive sources in addition to grains.”
However, the media’s general take on the report was to focus on the “implications” – the scenario painted by the report assuming ethanol production continues on in its present form, using the current technology, and just producing more and more corn to make into ethanol – which is NOT going to happen. That’s missing the point. The study is focusing on the solutions, not the problems – as we all should.