With the global population rising rapidly, growing food will take precedence over biofuel production. The future requirements for biofuels will depend on the development of low carbon technologies and advances in non-food feedstocks.
Bioenergy, which includes both biomass and biofuel, has been adopted by governments around the world as a viable method for generating carbon-neutral power, at least until the reliability and cost of other renewables sources improves.
Current biofuel production has come under attack, both for pulling investment away from other green technologies and for not being low-carbon.
New technologies are now available to modify current biofuel plants utilizing self-generating equipment for combined heat and power (CHP). This will allow biofuel plants to eliminate the use of hydrocarbons thus eliminating the carbon footprint.
In addition there is conclusive research that crops for energy can be grown on a mass scale without negatively impacting food security.
Global population levels are set to hit 9.8 billion by 2050 and 11.2 billion by 2100, according to a 2017 United Nations report. Obviously, this growth will need for heightened levels of energy production – but it will also mean many more hungry mouths to feed. If citizens are forced to choose between food and fuel, few will choose the latter.
Consequently, there are concerns that any increase in the use of bioenergy will come at the expense of agricultural land that could be used for food crops.
According to Global Food Security, a UK cross-government program on food security research, the planet will need to produce more food in the next 35 years than it has produced in the entirety of human history. The likelihood of achieving such a goal will be made more difficult by changing dietary habits, increasing urbanization and rising sea levels.
Dr Naomi Vaughan, Senior Lecturer in Climate Change at the University of East Anglia, recently warned that the growing demand for bioenergy crops could potentially exacerbate food security issues if “it was poorly regulated”. However, recent developments suggest that bioenergy and food crops can be grown in parallel rather than in competition.
Scientists are looking at ways of creating bioenergy-suitable crops that can be grown on the type of marginal land that is unsuitable for agricultural cultivation
If scientists can grow bioenergy plants on land that was previously considered useless, then the economic benefits for communities are greatly enhanced, opening up new agricultural revenue streams. Farmers in locations susceptible to drought may find that bioenergy crops provide more reliable harvests than those dedicated to food.
Benchmark is preparing to deploy its proprietary carbon neutral technologies and multi-feedstock capabilities to an existing 1st. generation ethanol plant in the United States.
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