Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Energy from biomass pays even with forest protection in the long term

18.08.2011
Forest protection – safeguarding woodland from being cleared and converted to fields for energy crops – reduces the global economic potential of bioenergy only in the short term.

If less additional land is available for cultivation, this can be compensated by higher rates of yield-raising investments. This is shown by a new study. However, following this scenario global food production prices could rise considerably.

Generating energy from crops instead of oil and coal can have counterproductive effects. “The use of biomass can lead to additional emissions of greenhouse gases”, says lead author Alexander Popp of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK). “This is the case if forests get cut down to plant energy crops instead.” Forests are important CO2 sinks. At the same time, biomass is expected to play an important role in future energy systems.

Therefore, a team of nine researchers investigated the potential of bioenergy constrained by forest protection. “We did not just calculate the biophysical potential”, Popp points out. “We established which amount of bioenergy, competing with other forms of energy, in the end is really cost-effective.” The scientists simulated this with complex computer-based models. The results now have been published in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

For the first time, a global land-use model was coupled with a model of the energy system and a vegetation model in a way that allows dynamic and detailed simulation of the tradeoffs between different factors. Amongst the factors taken into account are technological change, cropland expansion, and the change of dietary patterns in societies with growing wealth.

The outcome is that biomass in 2095 can contribute up to 270 exajoules to the worldwide energy supply – mainly in combination with Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS). This is just ten percent less than the potential without forest protection. Thus, about one fifth of the estimated global energy demand by the end of the century could be satisfied. In the year 2055 things look different. At this point in time, forest protection still shows the effect of considerably reducing the economic potential of bioenergy: from 100 to 70 exajoules, or 30 percent less. However, with respect to the importance of CCS for the contribution of bioenergy to climate change mitigation one needs to consider that the availability of this technology is still uncertain.

When forests get excluded from conversion to cropland for energy plants this increases competition for arable land between bioenergy and food production. This is the case even if – as done in the study presented – instead of edible crops such as corn and sugar cane, rather species like poplar and Miscanthus grass are planned for energy production. This leads to an increase of food production costs. “If one wants to achieve high potentials of bioenergy under the constraint of forest protection, much more investment has to be made in increasing agricultural productivity”, Popp says. “Also, we need to find new ways of really transfering technological change for instance to peasants in developing countries.”

If the goal is to prevent dangerous climate change, this can hardly be reached without expanding the use of energy from biomass, says Ottmar Edenhofer, co-author of the study and chief economist of PIK. “Without biomass plus carbon capture and storage – the sequestration of CO2 when those plants are used to fire power stations – climate protection might get quite expensive, as many studies show.” On the other hand, it becomes clear how inappropriate some one-sided praise of bioenergy is. “This kind of energy also comes at a price”, Edenhofer says. “Policies therefore shouldn’t just aim at the bioenergy but also integrate issues of land-use change and global food security.”

Article: Popp, A., Dietrich, J.P., Lotze-Campen H., Klein, D., Bauer, N., Krause, M., Beringer, T., Gerten, D., Edenhofer, O. (2011): The economic potential of bioenergy for climate change mitigation with special attention given to implications for the land system. Environmental Research Letters [doi:10.1088/1748-9326/6/3/034017]

For further information please contact the PIK press office:

Phone: +49 331 288 25 07
E-mail: press@pik-potsdam.de
Related studies from PIK:
Popp A., Lotze-Campen, H., Leimbach M., Knopf B., Beringer, T., Bauer N., Bodirsky B. (2011): On sustainability of bio-energy production: integrating co-emissions from agricultural intensification. Biomass & Bioenergy [doi:10.1016/j.biombioe.2010.06.014]

Beringer, T., Lucht, W., Schaphoff, S. (2011): Bioenergy production potential of global biomass plantations under environmental and agricultural constraints. GCB Bioenergy [doi:10.1111/j.1757-1707.2010.01088.x]

Lotze-Campen, H., Popp, A., Beringer, T., Müller, C., Bondeau, A., Rost, S., Lucht, W. (2010): Scenarios of global bioenergy production: The trade-offs between agricultural expansion, intensification and trade. Ecological Modelling 221: 2188-2196 [doi:10.1016/j.ecolmodel.2009.10.002]

Jonas Viering | PIK Potsdam
Further information:
http://www.pik-potsdam.de
http://iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/6/3/034017/fulltext

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Safeguarding sustainability through forest certification mapping
27.06.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

nachricht Dune ecosystem modelling
26.06.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Manipulating Electron Spins Without Loss of Information

Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.

For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...

Im Focus: The proton precisely weighted

What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.

To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...

Im Focus: On the way to a biological alternative

A bacterial enzyme enables reactions that open up alternatives to key industrial chemical processes

The research team of Prof. Dr. Oliver Einsle at the University of Freiburg's Institute of Biochemistry has long been exploring the functioning of nitrogenase....

Im Focus: The 1 trillion tonne iceberg

Larsen C Ice Shelf rift finally breaks through

A one trillion tonne iceberg - one of the biggest ever recorded -- has calved away from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica, after a rift in the ice,...

Im Focus: Laser-cooled ions contribute to better understanding of friction

Physics supports biology: Researchers from PTB have developed a model system to investigate friction phenomena with atomic precision

Friction: what you want from car brakes, otherwise rather a nuisance. In any case, it is useful to know as precisely as possible how friction phenomena arise –...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

»We are bringing Additive Manufacturing to SMEs«

19.07.2017 | Event News

The technology with a feel for feelings

12.07.2017 | Event News

Leipzig HTP-Forum discusses "hydrothermal processes" as a key technology for a biobased economy

12.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers create new technique for manipulating polarization of terahertz radiation

20.07.2017 | Information Technology

High-tech sensing illuminates concrete stress testing

20.07.2017 | Materials Sciences

First direct observation and measurement of ultra-fast moving vortices in superconductors

20.07.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>