A National Research Council report released today examines policy options and identifies opportunities for new agricultural techniques and technologies to help minimize effects of biofuel production on water resources.
While many media reports have focused on the potential effects increased corn ethanol production could have on water supplies and quality, the report was focused on identified options for addressing those concerns.
National Wildlife Federation Senior Program Manager for Agriculture and Wetland Policy Julie Sibbing says the report highlights the need for a new Biofuels Innovation Program in the next Farm Bill.
“The report notes that cellulosic biofuels, produced from native plants like switchgrass, should have less impact on water quality per unit of energy gained,” Sibbing said in a statement. “It suggests the adoption of public policies that encourage production of energy from cellulosic alternatives. America’s water resources will be under even greater pressure in a warming climate. Moving to non-irrigated, native crops to produce ethanol will go a long way towards helping to safeguard our water resources.”
Renewable Fuels Association president Bob Dinneen noted that the ethanol industry is already moving in many of the directions the study suggests.
“As this study accurately points out, U.S. ethanol producers are rapidly developing and implementing technologies that are improving the already green footprint of the industry,” Dinneen said. “Better efficiencies at today’s ethanol biorefineries are reducing water use, improving water recycling methods and utilizing wastewater supplies to further lessen the impact, if any, a biorefinery may have on local water supplies.”
Dinneen adds that the ethanol industry is evolving so rapidly it will be unrecognizable from its present form five years from now. “Technological evolutions will provide for more efficient use of natural resources like water, further reduce already low emissions from biorefineries, and allow us to produce ethanol from less resource-intensive sources in addition to grains.”