Water: Is There Enough for Biofuels at Scale?
by Jim Lane (Biofuels Digest) …In a note at CO2science.org, a trio of authors contend: “There simply is not enough freshwater on the face of the earth to make the production of biofuels a viable and significant alternative to the mining and usage of fossil fuels.”
…There will be three lines of argument, familiar to those who followed the development of the food vs fuel debacle. First, that there simply isn’t enough water. Second, that water (if available and abundant) should be prioritized for human consumption and for food production. Third, that intense water usage on a scale necessary for biofuels production represents an unsustainable intrusive impact on the environment.
…What drives the corn lobby crazy is that a lot of that water simply falls from the sky: irrigation is almost unheard of in the heart of Iowa corn country.
…But the big use is not for agriculture, or personal use. It is for electric power generation – that’s 41 percent of the total, or 143 billon gallons per day, and a total of 201 billion gallons per day including the use of saline water. It’s used for cooling.
…What we need are principles. Here are some for your consideration.
4 Principles for sustainable use of water, at scale, for biofuels production
1. Restrictions and guidelines on biofuels, based on availability of water, must be based on local availability. …
2. Where water is not abundant, fuel production systems should be weighted according to water availability factors…
3. For water to become an effective criteria, water regulation and law must itself change to provide the stability from which effective resource planning can flow. …
4. Where communities consume more energy than they (locally) produce, they are depending on other regions to deplete their water resources to generate power, fuel, or other forms of energy for transmission.