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Property Devaluation From Biomass Plants

Property Devaluation From Biomass Plants

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Published by: api-25975305 on Jun 08, 2009
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07/01/2009

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Don’t Log the Forests For the FueL:
A Position PAPer on the PotentiAL environmentALAnD economic imPActs oF the ceLLuLosicethAnoL inDustry in the southern uniteD stAtes
By Scot Quaranda
Research Assistance by Mollie Petersen, Siara Cowan and Kathryne CraneA report by the Dogwood AlliancePOB 7645, Asheville, NC, 28802www.dogwoodalliance.org
 
 W 
e live in a rapidly changing world in which the cumulative impacts o 200 years o industrialization and population growth are catching up with us in the orm o global climate change. Addto this our ever growing need or energy to support our Western liestyle and the continuously growingglobal population and we are setting ourselves up or an ecological nightmare unless dramatic changes aremade in the short-term. As oil prices climb and global demand threatens to overwhelm supply, we ail in the dark or alternativesto ossil uels that will allow us to sustain current and growing levels o energy demand and keep the globaleconomy humming. Te list o solutions grows daily, with inventors and investors hoping to nd the silverbullet. Some solutions seem hopeul and others do not. Add to that growing list a second generationbiouel, called cellulosic ethanol, which when looked at under close scrutiny is at minimum a alse solutionand, in the worst case scenario, a disaster or our orests that will exacerbate global climate change ratherthan combat it. Cellulosic ethanol is made by breaking down woody ber and converting the byproductinto uel. We certainly are not suggesting that our current reliance on ossil uels is a viable alternative. However,based on the ineciency o the current production technology and its reliance on ossil uels in productioncombined with the environmental and community impacts that will be outlined below make cellulosicethanol a alse solution. It should be set aside in avor o more positive solutions. Biouel has served as adistraction and diverted unding which could have been utilized or more proven or promising technologiesin the area o conservation and eciency, solar, wind and hydrogen technology, and more.Te orests o the Southern U.S. are a global treasure. Tese orests house amazing levels o animal andplant biodiversity, provide unique locales ound nowhere else in the world, comprise a large percentageo total US wetlands and store millions o tons o CO2 as plant based carbon. From the Appalachians tothe Ozarks and rom the coastal swamplands to the majestic upland hardwood orests o the CumberlandPlateau these orests have the potential to support a sustainable combination o wood products companies,orest-based tourism, and cultural resources or local communities or generations to come.Tat potential has already been degraded by the massive ootprinto the Southern paper industry and traditional industrial orestry methods. Now these orests stand on the brink o disaster. Tey areacing an energy industry that sees our orests as uel rather than asthe important communities that make up our biological and culturalheritage. Tis could push them over the edge.Cellulosic ethanol, a product that will primarily be produced romthe orests o the Southern US, is a short-sighted solution andshould be avoided on a large-scale at all costs because the risks aroutweigh the benets. Not only will the cellulosic ethanol industry compete with an already unsustainable pulp and paper industry inthe Southern US which is already rmly entrenched and hasmadehuge capital investments in the region, it will also cause irreparableharm to the orests and communities o the region. Tis harm willcome in the orm o more orest destruction, unsustainable levelso water use in an already drought-stricken region, loss o critically 
 
important carbon sinks, competition or land better served or ood production, and opening the door tountested technologies with potential untold consequences.In this paper, we will rst provide a denition o cellulosic and other second generation biouels andcompare them to both ossil uels and rst generation biouels like corn ethanol. We will then draw theconnection between these uels and orests and outline the potentially devastating environmental impactsincluding orest and habitat loss and degradation, increased greenhouse gas emissions, and the impactson water quality and quantity. We will then take a closer look at community impacts including bothincreased competition with the pulp and paper industry and the impact on local quality o lie. Next we will take a look at the economic impacts including bloated government subsidies. And we will conclude with a nal analysis and potential solutions.
WhAt is bioFueLAnD ceLLuLosic ethAnoL?
Biouel, agrouel, alternative uel, biomass uels… we have all heard so many names or seemingly thesame thing: uels meant to lighten our dependence on oreign oil and signicantly reduce greenhousegas emissions. In this early stage o the search or alternative uels there are many diferent competingtechnologies and uels. It is important to begin by clearly dening the uels most closely connected toorests: biouel and cellulosic ethanol.Fiber rom crops and other organic material is used to make a wide variety o uels. According to theCenter or International Policy, “Agrouels are combustible uels made rom organic material—plants oranimal by products,” while “Biodiesel is made o palm, soybeans, canola, or other plant oils; and cellulosicethanol is made by breaking down ber rom grasses or almost any other kind o plants.” (Carlsen, L,2007) Cellulosic ethanol is made using either thermal or enzymatic processes.Currently, in the United States the leading biouel in production by volume is the heavily subsidized cornethanol. (Koplow, D, 2007) U.S. armers planted 8.8 million acres o corn to produce 2.9 billion gallonso ethanol in 2004. Tat equaled two percent o our total annual gasoline consumption (Pimentel andPatzek, 2005). Corn ethanol is still mixed with petroleum and harvested by tractors that must use gas, notto mention the use o 4-5 gallons o water or every 1 gallon o ethanol produced and pesticides on thecrops, ethanol actually has a carbon debt o 93 years on land cleared specically or planting. (Johnson, A, 2007) Abandoned cropland, according to a study in
Science 
, has a carbon debt o about 48 years. So,instead o producing a 20% savings, corn-based ethanol nearly doubles greenhouse emissions over thirty years and increases greenhouse gases or 167 years. (Righelato, R and Spracklen, D, 2007) While corn was the rst crop to be tested and grown or producing ethanol on a large-scale in the UnitedStates, it wasnt dicult to determine that corn is a net energy and carbon loser. Now scientists havebroadened their base o crops rom corn and sugar, a crop widely used or uel in Brazil, to what they call second generation biouels that do not compete or ood. Te new ethanol eedstocks include algae,switchgrass, trees, and jatropha.Research and development is ocused on creating cellulosic ethanol rom potentially any kind o organicmaterial, although the main ocus is currently on woody material and switchgrass. Te technologicalchallenge or cellulosic ethanol is the diculty in separating out the carbohydrates (sugars) to be ermentedto produce ethanol.

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