Analysis lists top 10 states for residue and manure energy
U.S. agriculture could provide up to 155 million tons of crop residues and 60 millions tons of manure to produce clean fuels and electricity in 2030 that would help cut the nation’s oil use and phase out the use of coal, according to a new analysis by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).
Although the UCS is a controversial group with environmental activists leanings, the latest analysis does not appear to be controversial to those who know agricultural production in the U.S. The UCS research found that the top 10 states with the potential to use the residues left behind from crop harvest and livestock production, such as plant materials and manure, to create low-carbon fuels and electricity are: Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska, Minnesota, Arkansas, Texas, California, Indiana, South Dakota and North Carolina. Together, these states can provide about two-thirds of total projected U.S. crop residues and manure in 2030.
“The use of these biomass resources to produce renewable fuels for transportation and to generate electricity can provide a sustainable, low-carbon alternative to fossil fuels while enabling communities to benefit from local resources,” said Joshua Goldman, policy analyst for the UCS Clean Vehicles Program.
UCS found that, overall, the U.S. could tap nearly 680 million tons of biomass resources each year by 2030, enough to produce more than 10 billion gallons of ethanol, or 166 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity — equal to 4 percent of total U.S. power consumption in 2010.
Agricultural biomass can be an important clean energy resource and offers a significant opportunity for local and regional economies. Due to recent scientific advances, residues like stalks, husks, cobs, and other biomass —unsuitable as direct human food and left behind by our nation’s primary crops of corn, wheat, and rice — can be used to produce energy rather than burning them or leaving them in the fields.
The UCS analysis found that the benefits of biomass depend on using the right types of resources at an appropriate scale. It identifies ways that farmers can adapt their practices to sustainably remove residues from their fields, such as using no-till farming and planting cover crops to reduce soil erosion and water pollution while expanding the amount of residues available for bioenergy. In corn-growing regions, large quantities of corn stover —leaves and stalks left over after corn is harvested — are available to produce ethanol.
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