Derek Newberry

Corn and Crop Waste

Shengchang“All Biofuels Aren’t Created Equal” noted Tom Schueneman over at Triple Pundit yesterday. A solid point that brings some perspective to the ongoing discussion over the viability of biofuels. There is a significant difference between the moral issues raised by, say, a huge American corporation jacking up global corn prices by converting food products into fuel and a small company producing biofuel from crop waste.

In fact, I just posted a Rising Ventures article profiling a Chinese company that is characterized by the latter. Shengchang Bioenergy produces biofuels from what they call “crop waste,” a much better source than ethanol from corn as it does not convert crops that would be used for food into fuel.The article Tom’s blog references makes this distinction pretty clearly, quoting Jean Zigler at a UN meeting on Friday. I was surprised to read his claim that contrary to what Shengchang says to have accomplished, biofuels made from crop waste are about five years off. Rather than Shengchang employing some technology of the future unbeknownst to American scientists, it is more likely there is a wide definition of what entails “crop waste.”

Any thoughts on this? I would be interested to know if readers feel that crop waste is actually a desirable alternative energy or if it raises yet more moral quandaries. And are there major differences in energy yield between different types of crop waste?

Either way, the Shengchang model is one to be emulated – crop waste purchased directly from farmer co-ops so that no additional energy is expended growing crops specifically for energy and farmers get a good source of extra income on materials they would discard anyway. Is there finally a biofuels win-win for the environment and the BoP?