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 denition o cellulosic and other second generation biouels andcompare them to both ossil uels and rst generation biouels 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 lie. 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?
Biouel, agrouel, 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 signicantly 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 dening the uels most closely connected toorests: biouel 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, “Agrouels 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 biouel 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 specically or planting. (Johnson, A, 2007) Abandoned cropland, according to a study in
, 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 wasn’t dicult 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 biouels 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 diculty in separating out the carbohydrates (sugars) to be ermentedto produce ethanol.