Growing a Green Energy Future

  • Loni Kemp, Julie M. Sibbing
  • Mar 30, 2010

The vast potential of plant-based energy sources to create jobs, curb global warming and protect wildlife could be a reality in the United States—but not without changes in federal policies that have created an unsustainable first generation of biofuels, according to a new report released by the National Wildlife Federation.

Harvesting plant-based crops to produce energy to power cars, homes, businesses and communities—so-called bioenergy—has long been recognized as an important strategy for helping the nation transition away from fossil fuels and toward an economy based on clean, renewable sources of energy.

Biomass already produces 15 times more renewable energy for the United States than wind and solar combined. It holds the promise for creating heat, electricity and fuel from a variety of sources. Perennial grasses grown on marginal lands, studies suggest, can produce two to three times more energy per acre than existing grain crops—with fewer expensive up-front costs, leading to improved farmer income.

The report sets out several visions for what a sustainable bioenergy future might look like, highlighting successful biomass businesses that are producing energy for schools, colleges, hospitals, and prisons using native grasses, wood waste, and even forest debris from Hurricane Rita.

The transition from first-generation biofuels to more sustainable plant-based energy sources will only happen, according to the report, by enacting federal policies that:

  • Remove subsidies for inefficient bioenergy practices that place new, more efficient and sustainable practices at an economic disadvantage;
  • Establish standards that ensure that bioenergy sources do not contribute to environmental degradation and exacerbate global warming; and,
  • Establish incentives that reward practices that most effectively combat global warming in a sustainable manner.

Growing a Green Energy Future: A Primer and Vision for Sustainable Biomass Energy recommends federal policies that ensure bioenergy strategies help address global warming; maintain economic vitality; protect native habitats and biodiversity; assure sustainable harvests; prevent crops from becoming invasive; preserve water resources; protect water quality and uphold soil quality.

Growing A Green Energy Future

This report calls for strong agriculture and energy policies that create jobs, curb climate change, pollution, enhance national security, protect wildlife, and uphold soil and water quality.


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