Growing Risk: Addressing the Invasive Potential of Bioenergy Feedstocks
by Aviva Glaser and Patty Glick (National Wildlife Federation) Without question, America needs to transition to a cleaner, more sustainable energy future. As we move forward with our energy choices, we must be mindful of how short term economic decisions can come with unintended consequences and high long-term costs to society and the environment. Bioenergy is one homegrown source of renewable energy that could help meet some of our energy needs. However, in order to create a truly clean energy future, bioenergy must be produced in a way that has long-term economic viability, helps address climate change, and protects and enhances native habitats and ecosystems.
…Already, there are examples of intentional cultivation of biomass species that are known to be invasive or have the potential to become invasive. For instance:
- Giant reed is being used as a bioenergy crop in Florida, despite the fact that it has been known to invade important riparian ecosystems and displace habitat for native species in states across the southern half of the country.
- Reed canarygrass, which is considered to be one of the most harmful invasive species in America’s wetlands, rivers, and lakes, is being proposed for cultivation as a bioenergy feedstock in several areas, including the Eastern Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
- Cylindro, a type of algae that is associated with toxic algal blooms in the Great Lakes region, is just one of many non-native or modified strains of algae under consideration for bioenergy, even though the fast growth rate of algae and the inherent difficulty in containing them is a major concern.
- Napiergrass, also called elephant grass, has been listed as an invasive plant in Florida and described as one of the most problematic weeds in the world, and yet BP is currently developing a cultivated variety of it as an energy crop in the Gulf Coast Region. READ MORE and MORE (Environmental and Energy Study Institute) Download Study