Submitted to: Mid Atlantic Water Program USDA-CSREES
Publication Type: Government Publication
Publication Acceptance Date: June 18, 2007
Publication Date: June 18, 2007
Citation: Simpson, T., Pease, J., Mcgee, B., Smith, M.C., Korcak, R.F. 2007. Biofuels and Water Quality: Meeting the Challenge and Protecting the Environment. MAWQ 07-4.
Interpretive Summary: This paper presents key findings from the Biofuels and Water Quality Conference which was held on April 4-5, 2007, at the USDA-ARS Beltsville Agricultural Research Center. Several of the key findings were as follows. Biofuel (ethanol and biodiesel) production will move to the Mid-Atlantic region. Grain-based ethanol will be dominant for the foreseeable future. Perennial grass, wood or waste-based cellulosic ethanol production has economic and environmental potential but technical, production and policy constraints impede widespread implementation. Corn acreage and fertilization will increase, and unless nutrient management and other conservation practices are intensified, additional nutrient losses will occur. Expanded grain and ethanol production support by government incentives will discourage or slow conversion to cellulosic ethanol renewable energy. Thermochemical conversion can lower energy input requirements and at current petroleum prices may be commercially viable without government incentives. Thermochemical conversion can produce high-energy fuels and can utilize existing fuel-refining and fuel-distribution infrastructure.
The Conference was convened to identify and discuss the impacts, particularly to water quality, from growing and using agricultural-based feedstocks for biofuels production. For ethanol, the current feedstock of choice is corn grain but as cellulosics technologies are developed, feedstock preferences may evolve. Other potential biofuels technologies from gasification to pyrolysis, were also discussed. Feedstocks for these technologies could include agricultural biomass as well as manures and a broad range of urban generated wastes. This document summarizes the findings and recommendations from this two day conference. Research, programmatic and policy agendas for renewable fuels are also outlined.