Subtitle: Tarred with the same brush
From Green Car Congress, we learn of a new study by researchers at the UK’s Hadley Centre Met Office. Using the global climate impact model IMOGEN, they foresee large-scale use of a perennial grass, Miscanthus x giganteus, could reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.
Harvesting Miscanthus x giganteus with a modified forage harvester mounted on a combine at Forchheim, Baden-Württemberg, Germany, February 1995.
A best estimate scenario resulted in a reduction in the atmospheric concentration of CO2 by 162 ppmv by the end of the century. They estimate payback of the Miscanthus carbon debt—the carbon emissions cost of displacing natural vegetation—in 30 years… Previous estimates for other liquid biofuels, such as corn ethanol, were estimated to take 167-420 years to pay back their carbon debt.
Our study demonstrates the huge potential of energy crops, in particular of Miscanthus. Also, by scaling the results up to the global scale as we do in this study we are developing a new set of tools for evaluating energy crops.
—John Hughes, UK Met Office Research Scientist
While lacking the knowledge to fully appreciate Hughes’ enthusiasm for a new way to check energy crops, there is skepticism about the BTL context. Biomass To Liquid fuels comes about through gasification, a Fischer-Tropsch process similar to that used by oil companies on tars sand.
Some of the oil companies advocating oil from tar sands with gasification, include British Petroleum that, after scientific confrontation, revised its estimate of the amount of oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico from the Deepwater Horizon Disaster, and Shell that continues with efforts to go ahead with off-shore drilling in the Arctic. Wonder how many years to pay back those carbon footprints, eh?
Before, as we zoomed past tipping point after tipping point toward more and more, unavoidable positive feedback resulting in accelerated global warming, descriptions (sigh) came easier, e.g. “We have cracked the aquarium, dropped the basket, lit the big barbecue, melted the permafrost and the arctic ice cap.”
Now this blog is struggling for a proper catchphrase. From some perspective, the most recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico while Business Above All Else is not Business As Usual. And, it is more than Profit Over People; think of the Baby Coral!
POL (Profit Over Life)? EAU (Ecocide As Usual)? OMG == Oily Mexican Gulf? For the moment (back of hand to forehead), my snarkiness fails me.
In any case, one might suspect this recent study is part of so much pandering by the ear-tagged. As noted before, producing electricity generally is a more efficient use of biomass. Nevertheless, the need for liquid fuel, and therefore possibly biofuel, will persist under the Reuse rubric, i.e., it is inefficient to simply scrap all internal combustion machinery.* So FSII (Further Study Is Indicated).
The team integrated a process-based model of the energy crop Miscanthus × giganteus into the global climate impact model IMOGEN, simulating the potential of large-scale Miscanthus plantation to offset fossil fuel emissions during the 21st century.
The simulation produces spatially explicit, annual projections of Miscanthus yields from the present day to the year 2100 under an SRES A2 anthropogenic emissions scenario and includes the effects of climate change. IMOGEN also simulates natural vegetation and soil carbon storage throughout the 21st century.
The effects of large-scale Miscanthus plantation are then integrated globally to produce an estimate of atmospheric CO2 concentrations throughout the 21st century. Our best estimate of the pay-back time for Miscanthus plantation is 30 years. We project a maximum possible reduction in atmospheric CO2 of 323 ppmv by the end of 21st century, with a reduction of 162 ppmv corresponding to the best estimate scenario.
—Hughes et al.
* Banksy Note: Not to mention you need liquid fuel to make Molotovs.
GCC Recommended Resource
J. K. Hughes, A. J. Lloyd, C. Huntingford, J. W. Finch and R. J. Harding (2010) The impact of extensive planting of Miscanthus as an energy crop on future CO2 atmospheric concentrations. Global Change Biology Bioenergy doi: 10.1111/j.1757-1707.2010.01042.
Related AG Posts on Topic of Biomass To Liquid fuel