Making the Deserts Bloom with Biofuels

John Davis

After spending the past year in the desert myself, I can tell you personally that the prospect of seeing ANYTHING growing, whether it is a plant or animal, is quite a highly anticipated event. And being in that desert far from home really helped bring home how much this country needs domestically produced fuels. That’s why this story from the U.S. Geological Survey’s blog caught my eye. Researchers, such as the USGS’s Sasha Reed (pictured below), are looking at how to get the most out of biofuel production in the arid regions of the American Southwest, while preserving the fragile environment…

“Even renewable energy has consequences, and we want decision makers to have the data available to make informed decisions about incorporating a variety of energy sources into our national energy portfolio,” Reed says…

…Reed and her colleagues are using a two-pronged approach to unravel the biofuel potential of the American Southwest. First, they are using remote sensing and modeling to help determine the amount of energy that could be added to our national energy portfolio by biofuel production. Second, they are using biogeochemistry to assess how different approaches to biofuel development will affect greenhouse gas emissions, water availability and quality, air quality, and soil fertility and stability.

Obviously, in the desert, water is a big concern. Trying to find ways to reduce the amount of water taken away from helping hold soil in place (which, without that water creates a whole new problem… DUST!) is a large part of the focus of Reed’s work. She says more dust has a compounding effect, such as making snow melt faster, which leads to water shortages in areas of the Southwest. The hope is this USGS work will give land managers and policy makers more information to make better decisions about when, where and how to produce biofuels in those desert areas.

algae, Biodiesel, biofuels