We are growers of a dedicated energy crop, called Miscanthus x Giganteus. This crop can survive under drought tolerant conditions once mature(2-3 yrs). Of course, growing it on surplus lands that could be cultivated for food is preferred to maximize yield. One perfect example for it's benefit is in the ag set asides land, which lays fallow or farms crops that provide the most profit/acre.
We harvest the hay and convert it or any agro-waste to solid fuel through densification for shipment to any US state, via rail or cargo ship. Distribution costs are offset by the increased bulk density of the feedstock. We can ship 190k per rail car anywhere in the continental USA.
No crop grows absent water. Our MxG(not elephant grass, but in the family) is drought tolerant due to it's large rhizomatic root system. Not like cactus, but far more drought tolerant than sugarcane or corn. Also, as a perennial, it survives for 20 years without annual replanting. I'm not trying to sell any snake oil, just trying to introduce a crop that is noninvasive and has been used in Europe for over 20 years as a feedstock as co-burn in Coal fired electricity generating plants. In the states, it has application in Cellulosic ethanol production.
Food versus fuel is a debatable point. Food farmland can be interpreted as vegetables, fruits, nuts, cereal grains, even pasture land. Every crop(food or fuel) benefits from land with full access to water.
The analysis is the land for food demand and forecasted demand, to establish projected "surplus" land for the use in fuel crops. Obviously, environmental impacts must be evaluated(invasiveness, fertilization and chemical requirements, etc.). To be able to grow on strip mined land is a challenge for any crop. Marginal land would probably include pastureland, but an argument for animal grazing could be made. There is over 40 million acres of land in ag set asides, presently and planting fuel crops on these lands could make a huge impact on ethanol production and have a positive carbon balance. If climate change is snake oil to you, then go drill some more oil wells, my friend!
We are in a period of transition. Hopefully, it's not too late. Fuel to feed our vehicles, homes, schools, factories and utilities will be augmented, not replaced through evolutionary socio economic cycles. Natural Gas is now beginning to replace coal and fuel oils. It has emissions challenges, albeit significantly less than other forms of fossil fuels. We can't just throw a crowbar in the engines that drive our economies and day to day lives. Green energy will augment fossil fuels and slow the environmental degradation and depletion of these resources. Man can't keep extracting the carbon stored for eons to power society without a price. We have a choice to partner with fossil fuels or fail because of arrogant idealism. If we choose all or none, we will end up with none(or our ancestors will).
Bio fuels are here to stay and certain species will replace other less efficient sources while adding wildlife habitats and growing dedicated energy crops for fuel. Nothing will ever run out because necessity is the mother of invention. I don't believe we can use our atmosphere over and over again. Our fossil fuel resources were created over millineums and we are consuming them at an ever increasing rate. We can't replace these resources in centuries. Lifeforms will perish without alternative environmentally friendly energy. Follow natures rules and stick your head in the sand. Future generations will suffer. The time is now and in fact, may have already eluded us. It may be too late.
Miscanthus has a positive carbon balance and has a huge return(EROI) Do your research. I suggest you look at Illinois State University and Iowa State University for the research already conducted. Better yet, research Europe(specifically, Great Britain) for the successful EROI's on producing acreage. Respectfully, broad statements without research(as we have done over 5 years) is useless and dishonest to interested parties. Follows the rhetoric in the current Presidential election.
As a startup focused on biomass from Miscanthus X Giganteus, we are planning to enter the market of combustion and liquid fuel(Co-burn with Coal, residential pellets, Cellulosic ethanol). Our company will have initial supply from the agra-waste of rice hulls and hay in California, a by-product with 500,000 tons of waste/year. This strategy allows us to fully utilize brick and mortar and immediately serve a burgeoning market. The Miscanthus takes 3 years to achieve maximum yield, but as a perennial lasts over 20 years. Yields of 15-25 tons/acre have been recorded in Europe and in USA university trial plots. The profit to the farmer exceeds the subsidized profit from corn and other ethanol crops. WE are frustrated with the purported support of biomass by notable investors. We are now entertaining European investment to fund our start. There seem sot be a gross misunderstanding of biomasses potential to fulfill the goals of 38B gallons of liquid fuel by 2025. Delay in investment will be a self-fulfilling prophecy of the failure to meet these goals. We think that biomass isn't perceived as "sexy" by investors investing in Solar or Wind technology. Farming is just not interesting to many.Please visit our website at: www.eseusainc.com to better understand our mission in the bioenergy industry. David Robbins