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Does Expanding Biofuel Production Make Sense? 5

New World Bank Research Paper

The expansion makes sense in some, but not all, cases, according to a new working paper by Govinda Timilsina and Ashish Shrestha of the World Bank. The case is strongest in countries with a surplus of unused land and a developed biofuel industry. Second-generation biofuels, such as ethanol made from cellulosic biomass, may offer more economic and environmental benefits in the future. But they are facing serious technical and economic hurdles right now and would still compete with the food supply for available land. Already, a hot debate has focused on what impact expanded biofuel production had on the 2007-2008 global food crisis. Estimates of the impact vary greatly, but it's clear that biofuel production contributed to higher food prices. In addition, an expansion of biofuel production would reduce greenhouse gas emissions if it doesn't involve converting carbon-rich forests to cropland. Otherwise, any large-scale expansion of biofuels would cause a net increase of greenhouse gas emissions for many years.
World Bank Policy Research Working Paper 5364

Extracts:

"The use of microalgae for biodiesel production appears to be a very promising future technology (Christi, 2008) since 80% or more of the dry weight of algae biomass, compared to 5% for some food crops, may be retrieved as oil for some species (Christi, 2007). They also create little pressure on arable land because they can be cultivated in a wide variety of conditions, even in salt water and water from polluted aquifers (GBEP, 2008)."

"While micro-algae is projected as a future source for biodiesel, production cost is still extremely high, in the range of US$2 to US$22 per liter (Pate and Hightower, 2008). Making algae a viable commercial option will require further improvements in genetic and metabolic engineering to produce higher yielding and hardier strains. Although economies of scale in production could lower the cost, it is challenging to increase the yield to a level that ensures micro-algae based biodiesel is competitive with other biodiesel technologies. Nevertheless, the feasibility of biodiesel production from micro-algae can be expedited if large-scale production facilities can be integrated with other processes, such as wastewater treatment and utilization of carbon dioxide from power plants (USAID, 2009)."

Wed September 22 2010 05:00:20 AM by RobertTulip Algae biofuel  |  World Bank 1929 views

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