Experts on a National Biodiesel Board webinar Tuesday explained how biofuels production can lead to more efficient and environmentally friendly energy future and help feed the world’s poor.
The on-line event drew more than 100 participants, including government regulators, military personnel, scientists and students. The event was promoted among college students as part of the Next Generation Scientists for Biodiesel effort.
Both Dr. Stephen Kaffka of the University of California/Davis Department of Plant Sciences and Keith Kline with the Center for Bioenergy Sustainability at Oak Ridge National Laboratory talked about how the world can and should produce both food and fuel.
“Biofuel feedstocks or residue use should be considered from a cropping system’s perspective and not just as separate enterprises,” said Kaffka. “It isn’t really a food versus fuel issue but rather a more efficient and environmentally sound cropping system versus those that are less so.”
Kaffka talked about how California has been discounted by the USDA in its Road Map for Biofuels estimate of biomass production per region, but he believes that crops like safflower, which is an oilseed that has a deep root system and can recover residual nitrogen at greater soil depths, could be grown very efficiently and productively in that state. “Some of the crops that might have roles for biodiesel feedstock can have significant agronomic and environmental benefits as well,” he said.
Kline believes that bioenergy done correctly on a global scale could do much to address food insecurity and poverty. “If we can alleviate poverty, we can probably alleviate a lot of food insecurity,” he said. “Some people in Africa have looked at this and concluded that bioenergy is not only compatible with food production but it could also greatly benefit agriculture in Africa.”
Kline says farmers he has talked to in developing countries want to feed their families and have something they can sell. “If they can grow something that’s good for food, and fuel, and fodder and feed, and anything else that you can imagine, it’s all the better,” he added.