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Nov 25, 2011

UK Energy Research Centre - 1/5th Global Energy Could Come From Biomass Without Damaging Food Production

On 25 November 2011, ScienceDaily reported that the U.K. Energy Research Centre (UKERC) had issued an comprehensive assessment concluding that biomass (plants) could potentially provided up to one fifth of global energy without causing food insecurity.

UKERC was established in 2004 in London, following a recommendation from the 2002 Energy Review initiated by Sir David King, the UK Government's Chief Scientific Advisor. Its mission is to bring together representatives from the government, industry, and academia.

In reviewing the potential of biomass energy,  UKERC's Technology and Policy division reviewed 90 different global studies in the energy field.  This revealed that scientists use different criteria and viewpoints when assessing whether biomass will impact food production.  Variables include how to prioritize factors such as population, diet, and land use. One specific problem was how to evaluate "the speed with which productivity improvements in food and energy crop production can be rolled out."

Dr Raphael Slade, a Research Fellow at Imperial College London was the principal investigator on this report.  In his view, the most difficult issue to assess is diet.  This is further complicated by the fact that people in Asia and Latin America have become greater consumers of meat as their incomes have risen. According to Slade, "replacing all fossil fuels with biomass would be equivalent to all of global agriculture and commercial forestry combined, and would only be possible if we can grow more food on less land."

The report highlighted that energy as a key component of agriculture, needs further study.  "Scientists working on food and agriculture need to work more closely with bio-energy specialists to address challenges such as water availability and environmental protection."

Co-author, Dr. Ausilio Bauen, Head of Bioenergy at Imperial College's Centre for Energy Policy and Technology noted the importance of "ensuring that bio-energy, food and forests don't compete for land."  There is a need to "use the land more productively."

For more see: "Fifth of Global Energy Could Come from Biomass Without Damaging Food Production, Report Suggests," ScienceDaily, 25 Nov. 2011.

About Margaret

CEO and Curator (The Food Museum) | Managing Director and Chief Editor (GR2 Global LLC) | Educator (UCLA PhD) | Researching and writing on global food issues, nutrition and health, sustainability, history (preservation), conservation (natural resources), and design.
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