ARS Scientist Helps Craft National Academies Report on
By Ann Perry
September 25, 2009
Agricultural Research Service (ARS)
scientist was a key contributor to a National Research Council report on the
technical feasibility, costs, and environmental impacts of producing
alternative transportation fuels.
The report, Liquid Transportation Fuels from Coal and Biomass:
Technological Status, Costs, and Environment, was the result of
collaborations between 16 experts from public and private organizations and was
released in May. It is the first of a series of studies to be released from the
America's Energy Future project, which was undertaken to stimulate
and inform a constructive national dialogue about the nations energy
The report authors concluded that fuels from coal and biomass could help
alleviate the U.S. demand for oil. However, significant technological
investments will be needed to develop cost-effective and environmentally sound
techniques for producing transportation fuels from coal and biomass.
Karlen, research leader at the
Soil and Water Quality Research Unit in Ames, Iowa, was a key contributor
to the chapter on Biomass Resources for Liquid Transportation
Fuels. The chapter provides an overview of how the proper management of
lignocellulosic biofuels could contribute to U.S. energy security, support U.S.
agriculture and rural communities and help protect the environment, all in a
The chapter also reviews challenges to the development of the biomass-supply
industry. For instance, it will be necessary to organize farmers, intermediate
partners and biofuel conversion facilities into a well-coordinated and
sustainable lignocellulosic ethanol industry.
The report also notes that researchers will have to determine how biofuel
crops would affect greenhouse gas emissions throughout their production cycles,
including emissions from farm equipments, fertilizers and other crop supports.
In addition, efforts will be needed to increase the recognition of crop
residues and similar materials as agricultural resources for minimizing soil
erosion, recycling nutrients and sequestering carbon.
The report is accessible online at
ARS is the principal intramural scientific research agency of the
U.S. Department of Agriculture.