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Sustainable agriculture and the production of biomass for energy use


Muller, A (2009). Sustainable agriculture and the production of biomass for energy use. Climatic Change, 94(3-4):319-331.

Abstract

Modern bioenergy is seen as a promising option to curb greenhouse gas emissions. There is, however, a potential competition for land and water between bioenergy and food crops. Another question is whether biomass for energy use can be produced in a sustainable manner given the current conventional agricultural production practices. Other than the land and water competition, this question is often neglected in scenarios to meet a significant part of global energy demand with bioenergy. In the following, I address this question. There are sustainable alternatives, for example organic agriculture, to avoid the negative environmental effects of conventional agriculture. Yet, meeting a significant part of global energy demand with biomass grown sustainably may not be possible, as burning significant quantities of organic matter—inherent in bioenergy use—is likely to be incompatible with the principles of such alternatives, which often rely on biomass input for nutrient balance. There may therefore be a trade-off between policies and practices to increase bioenergy and those to increase sustainability in agriculture via practices such as organic farming. This is not a general critique of bioenergy but it points to additional potential dangers of modern bioenergy as a strategy to meet significant parts of world energy demand.

Abstract

Modern bioenergy is seen as a promising option to curb greenhouse gas emissions. There is, however, a potential competition for land and water between bioenergy and food crops. Another question is whether biomass for energy use can be produced in a sustainable manner given the current conventional agricultural production practices. Other than the land and water competition, this question is often neglected in scenarios to meet a significant part of global energy demand with bioenergy. In the following, I address this question. There are sustainable alternatives, for example organic agriculture, to avoid the negative environmental effects of conventional agriculture. Yet, meeting a significant part of global energy demand with biomass grown sustainably may not be possible, as burning significant quantities of organic matter—inherent in bioenergy use—is likely to be incompatible with the principles of such alternatives, which often rely on biomass input for nutrient balance. There may therefore be a trade-off between policies and practices to increase bioenergy and those to increase sustainability in agriculture via practices such as organic farming. This is not a general critique of bioenergy but it points to additional potential dangers of modern bioenergy as a strategy to meet significant parts of world energy demand.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:03 Faculty of Economics > Department of Economics
Dewey Decimal Classification:330 Economics
Language:English
Date:June 2009
Deposited On:17 Dec 2009 15:59
Last Modified:19 Sep 2018 12:12
Publisher:Springer
ISSN:0165-0009
OA Status:Green
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-008-9501-2
Official URL:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10584-008-9501-2

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