Bioenergy Touted to ’’Green’’ Cities and Aid Farmers, by Stephen Leahy

Friday, June 3, 2005

A pellet of dried grass. Not much to look at, but the tiny ball symbolises a technology that experts say can help meet our surging demand for energy while curbing poverty and global warming especially in developing countries where vast rural populations with no access to electricity and rapidly-expanding mega cities vie for material resources.

Pelletised grass is just one form of bioenergy, which includes, biogas, bioethanol and biodiesel from crops such as sugar cane and beet, maize and biomass energy from fuelwood, fuelwood, charcoal, agricultural wastes and by-products, forestry residues, and livestock manure.

’’Right now, with oil at (around) 50 dollars a barrel, bioenergy can easily compete with oil as an energy source,’’ said Roger Samson, executive director of the research and consulting group Resource Efficient Agricultural Production Canada (REAP-Canada).

’’The biggest new energy source in the world is a biofuel made of compacted grass pellets,’’ Samson, an energy specialist, told IPS in an interview in advance of World Environment Day, which falls on Sunday, June 5.

Economies based on fossil fuels will make a transition to bioenergy-based economies over the next few decades. That switch could benefit not only the rural poor but also the whole planet, since biofuels can help mitigate climate change, says a recent report from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

Grasses grown on marginal lands in tropical areas have the potential to produce 100 barrels of oil energy equivalent per hectare per year based on studies in Brazil, said Samson. This could be done without fertilisers, he added.
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Source: IPS