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Environmental Considerations of Biofuels in Glades Area Economic Redevelopment January 10, 2009 24 th Annual Everglades Coalition Conference Miami, FL.

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Presentation on theme: "Environmental Considerations of Biofuels in Glades Area Economic Redevelopment January 10, 2009 24 th Annual Everglades Coalition Conference Miami, FL."— Presentation transcript:

1 Environmental Considerations of Biofuels in Glades Area Economic Redevelopment January 10, 2009 24 th Annual Everglades Coalition Conference Miami, FL John C. Capece, Ph.D. Caloosahatchee River Citizens Association (CRCA – Riverwatch)

2 CRCA - RIVERWATCH U.S. Sugar Purchase in Hendry & Glades Counties

3 CRCA - RIVERWATCH Southern Flow-way from Lake Okeechobee CRCA debated & officially endorsed the southern flow-way concept in 2007-2008. CRCA was unable to reach consensus on the U.S. Sugar buyout because of: –Uncertainties regarding state commitment to the economic redevelopment of the affected rural communities. –Concerns over the structure of the lease-back component of the purchase agreement. –A desire to see a flow-way based on dual-use lands incorporating fundamental changes in farming and economic compensation systems.

4 CRCA – Riverwatch Concerns with Energy Issues Energy, greenhouse gases, climate change & sea level rise are the overarching threats to South Florida. 2006-2007 involvement in the FPL Glades Power Park coal-fired electric generation plant near Moore Haven. Some in Riverwatch (John Capece and others) advocated a coal gasification plant with carbon sequestration and mercury capture partially out of concern that pursuing biofuels, as a national energy policy, would result in greater negative impacts on the environment & food supplies.

5 What Are Biofuels? Food for People & Livestock Energy for Society: –Biomass combustion for heat and cooking –Biomass combustion for electrical power –Ethanol (alcohol) from fermentation –Biodiesel (oil) production –Biogas (methane) anaerobic digestion –2 nd generation (isobutanol, cellulosic, syngas) –3 rd generation (from algae feedstock)

6 Are Biofuels A Good Option? This presentation outlines some of the considerations & methodologies for developing rational plans & policies for any dramatic expansion of the Glades biofuels industry.


8 Cash Flow – Free Markets Traditionally thought to integrate all system costs with social costs moderated through the political & law enforcement process. Includes subsidies & tariffs Excludes externalized costs The low-cost producer isnt always the most efficient. Rather, it is often the most externalized. Tends to push systems towards high-yield monocultures to the exclusion of other considerations (natural resources depletion).

9 Energetics – Total Energy Budget Energy accounting or the flows & storage of energy into and out of a system. H.T. Odum work at UF (with others including Mark T. Brown) Provides a more comprehensive analysis if, like traditional economics, all input, output, and impact categories are included. Like traditional economics, an energetics model can neglect some cost categories and social considerations.

10 Emergy (embodied energy) Analysis of Agricultural Production Systems

11 Emergy (embodied energy) Analysis of Sugarcane Ethanol from Consuelo L. F. Pereira and Enrique Ortega, 2007 (Brazil)

12 Comparison of Biofuels Emergy The true value of energy to society is the net energy, which is what's left after the energy costs of getting and concentrating that energy are subtracted. Odum, 1974. The ability to make these assessments assumes that consensus exists on what categories of impacts represent costs of the process.

13 Photosynthetic Efficiency a limiting factor A comparison of conversion efficiency from solar to usable energy (taking into account the whole energy budgets) shows that photovoltaics are 100 times more efficient than corn ethanol and 10 times more efficient than the best biofuel.

14 Environmental Impacts Criteria Environmental Sustainability Index (ESI) Environmental Loading Ratio (ELR) Ecological Footprint Composite Sustainability Performance Index Green Biofuels Index

15 Net Energy Output & CO2 Emissions from U.K. Dept. of Transport Jan. 2008

16 Requirements of Biofuels Production Muck Soil Subsidence –40 tons/ac yield with 0.5 muck loss, 10 tons C Fertilizers & Pesticides Use Water Consumption Water Pollution Requirements of the biofuels refining process are highly dependent on the specific technology employed.

17 Required Biofuels Inputs Biofuel SourceWaterFertilizerPesticidesEnergy% of land Cornhigh 200 Sugarcanehigh med 50 Switch grasslow 80 Wood residuemedlow 200 Algaemedlow high2 % of U.S. farm land required to meet half of U.S. demand. Table from Groom, Gray & Townsend in Conservation Biology. Sugarcane and switch grass are highest among existing technologies, but algae appears to hold greatest potential as a future biofuel technology.

18 Other Social and Economic Factors LAND USE CHANGES –Without changes in peoples diet or improvements in agricultural productivity, using crop land for fuel production simply accelerates the conversion of natural lands to farms, with the accompanying loss of habitat and other landscape functions. COMPETITION WITH FOOD –The recent spike in energy costs led to food riots in many nations. A rapidly-growing biofuels industry could increase suffering in developing nations.

19 What Does the Ag College Think? The UF-IFAS sponsorship announcements on Public Radio specifically refer to bifuel energy from AGRICULTURAL WASTES. This may not reflect any conclusion on the part of UF-IFAS regarding the net merits of producing fuel directly from crops, but it is notable.

20 What Will Be Government Policy? …we will double the production of alternative energy in the next three years. …jobs building solar panels and wind turbines, constructing fuel-efficient cars and buildings, and developing the new energy technologies that will lead to even more jobs, more savings, and a cleaner, safer planet in the bargain. Obama Economic Speech, Jan. 8, 2009: The speech included no direction mention of biofuels, which could suggest that the new administration may not provide a blanket endorsement of biofuels. They may want to look at biofuel options on a case by case basis.

21 Conclusions Any subsidies for an expanded biofuels industry on public lands in the Glades area should target balanced returns (economic, environmental & social). Proper assessment of biofuels costs & benefits requires a rational, structured process…characterized by transparency and accurate assignments of costs & values. Total value of the landscape functions (including water storage, muck conservation, etc.) should be considered in the farming systems development, not simply cash flow from maximum yields of traditional agricultural practices.


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