LETTERS TO THE EDITORS
Be Real About Biofuels
To the Editors:
I’d like to congratulate Thomas Sinclair for his fine article “Taking Measure of Biofuel Limits” (September–October 2009). The energy situation facing our planet is too important to be mishandled. Biofuels can be part of the solution. But there is a limit to how much biomass can be produced at an affordable cost. It is imperative that we make the most efficient use of our biomass resources.
Across the nation there are major efforts to generate electricity from wood. This works economically and environmentally. Yet it is critical that we continue research and development on technologies for electricity, heating and transportation fuels that result in even more efficient conversion of the nation’s biomass resources. These efforts must be coupled with gains in the efficient use of power and fuel. Improved efficiencies are the often overlooked, low-hanging fruit in this quest. Quality research and development programs in the public and private sector can generate improved conversion technologies and guide their efficient use. When implementation of a new idea precedes needed research and development, time and money are often wasted.
Dr. Sinclair points us to several research questions regarding how much biofuel feedstock we can realistically expect to grow. There are no easy answers and the time we have to find solutions is running out. Agriculture and forestry will play a major role in addressing the energy challenge. It is imperative that we focus significant resources on the research needed to achieve success.
Former Under Secretary, Chief Scientist
U. S. Department of Agriculture