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Challenges in Biofuels Production

Replacing fossil fuels with biofuels will require a major transformation of the agricultural, transportation, and energy sectors in the United States over the next few decades, according to a paper published in the August 13, 2010, issue of the journal Science.

Tom Richard (photo by Jason Jones)“Fifteen billion metric tons of biomass—such as switchgrass, crop residues, and forest wastes—will be needed each year to reach the International Energy Agency’s 2050 target for producing energy from biomass,” said the paper’s author Tom Richard, professor of agricultural and biological engineering and director of the Penn State Institutes of Energy and the Environment. Richard added that the challenges associated with meeting this goal include allocating large amounts of land to growing biofuel plants year-round, building facilities to process the plants, and maintaining roads to transport the finished products.

“The transformation of American society to one in which biomass produces a major fraction of our energy will require an innovative, informed, and motivated citizenry,” he said.

Photo: ©Jason Jones