Scientists look to tobacco leaves for biofuel

This post was contributed by Piper Corp, ESA Science Policy Analyst In a recent Plant Biotechnology Journal paper, scientists at Thomas Jefferson University’s Biotechnology Foundation Laboratories say that genetically modified tobacco “has the potential to produce more energy per hectare than any other non-food crop.” Tobacco Field in Pinar del Rio, Cuba Photo Credit: Henryk Kotowski Biofuel oil is typically pressed...

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Biofuel’s indirect environmental effects

Biofuels hold promise for reducing the world’s consumption of unsustainable fossil fuels.  But like any new technology, they come with their own host of issues and problems.  One such problem is the so-called “indirect” effect of biofuels on the landscape and the atmosphere. For example, when farmlands are converted to biofuel crops, the food formerly grown on those lands needs to be grown somewhere else.  This could...

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ESA Policy News Update

My sincere apologies for this week’s EcoTone drought… this blogger was away on vacation. To re-whet your appetite, here are highlights from the latest Policy News Update from ESA’s policy analyst, Piper Corp. House Climate Bill: On May 21, the House Energy and Commerce Committee approved the American Clean Energy and Security Act by a vote of 33 to 25.  The committee approved a number of amendments, including ones...

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EPA biofuels rule: calculating the payback

The EPA released a report yesterday that proposes to change the rules of the biofuels game.  The report, titled “Regulation of Fuels and Fuel Additives: Changes to Renewable Fuel Standard Program,” examines the lifecycle of corn-for-ethanol practices and sets the “payback” period of carbon emissions for corn-for-ethanol fuel as 33 years. The payback period means that at first, corn-for-ethanol practices will be...

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For now, forget biofuels in reserves

Ethanol as the next generation of alternative fuels has stirred significant controversy. While some tout its lower-than-gasoline greenhouse-gas emissions and its usefulness in creating carbon sinks in its agricultural fields, many other ecologists call ethanol production the most inefficient of alternative fuel options. Even the most optimistic scenarios still show that using current technologies, it can take years – in some...

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