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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: ECONOMIC AND ENVIRONMENTAL BENEFITS FROM MULTIUSE AGRICULTURAL LANDSCAPES TO FAMILY FARMS

Location: Dale Bumpers Small Farms Research Center

Title: Bioethanol and Biodiesel: Alertnative Liquid Fuels for Future Generations

Authors
item Sivakumar, Ganapathy -
item Vail, Daniel -
item Xu, Jianfeng -
item Ge, Xumeng -
item Burner, David
item O Lay, Jackson -
item Weathers, Pamela -

Submitted to: Engineering in Life Sciences
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: December 18, 2009
Publication Date: February 1, 2010
Citation: Sivakumar, G., Vail, D.R., Xu, J., Ge, X., Burner, D.M., O Lay, J., Weathers, P.J. 2010. Bioethanol and biodiesel: Alertnative liquid fuels for future generations. Engineering in Life Sciences. 10(1)8-18.

Interpretive Summary: The economic and environmental incentives for developing and implementing biofuels are overwhelming. While engineering cellular metabolic processes hypothetically provides a great opportunity to increase biofuel yields, there is often a trade-off between specific productivity and biomass. Shifting cellular biological resources to enhance a desired end product is often accomplished at the expense of growth, resulting in reduced biomass and reduced yields, despite a high specific yield being accomplished per gram of dry mass. Public acceptance of genetically modified organisms for biofuel production also presents a challenge. Metabolic engineering of organisms that produce biofuels is a relatively new field, and there is certainly room for improvement. In the coming decades, biofuels will likely be one of the next big industries. However, any single biofuel will not solve our energy problems. The production of most biofuels is still too energy intensive and the well-established biofuel industries where there is a net positive energy yield, such as with maize-ethanol, are still associated with too may problems. It is likely that a variety of different biofuels will be used each with its own regional and cultural niche, and these will be used in combination with non-biological alternative energies such as wind, solar, tidal, and nuclear.

Technical Abstract: Global population is expected to increase by approximately three billion by 2050 and with this increase in population, industry, transportation, and the cost of fossil fuels will increase dramatically . New technology is needed for fuel extraction using feedstocks which do not threaten food security, cause minimal or no loss of natural habitat and soil carbon, improve waste management, minimize or eliminate environmental pollution, and improve rural economies. Liquid biofuels such as lignocellulosic based-ethanol from plant biomass and algal-based biodiesel are sustainable, alternative biofuels that could stabilize national security and provide clean energy for future generations. Ideally, the technology should also foster recycling of agricultural feedstocks, and improve soil fertility and human health. This article provides updated information on the energy potential and breadth of liquid biofuel biotechnology.

Last Modified: 7/30/2014
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