CAST Releases New Issue Paper on Bioenergy

November 8, 2004

November 8, 2004…Washington, D.C. The Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST) today is releasing Bioenergy: Pointing to the Future, a collection of five stand-alone pieces highlighting the current science, processes, and potentials for energy production through agriculture, and outlining future research needs. Written by a task force of seven authors and evaluated by three reviewers, the new CAST Issue Paper successfully pulls together a critical assessment of this international concern.

Dependence on any single energy source, especially a foreign source, leaves the United States vulnerable to price shocks, supply interruptions, and economic blackmail. “As recent worldwide events have shown,” says Roger K. Conway, Task Force Cochair, “energy-source diversity is important not only for energy security but also for national security.” As Congress debates the need to expand and diversify U.S. energy supplies, nonfossil sources of energy, including bioenergy, must be considered. According to Don Erbach, Task Force Cochair, “The development and expansion of a biofuel industry founded on a strong agricultural sector can play a role in enhancing energy security, cleaning our environment, and promoting farm and rural economic growth.” Key concepts explored in the five-part publication include:

A.  Introduction to the Bioenergy Issue

Roger K. Conway (USDA–OEPNU) and Don Erbach (USDA–ARS)

This section provides a “state-of-the-issue” foundation for the evaluation that follows, including an assessment of current energy reserves, an explanation of biobased energy sources, and the pros and cons of creating and expanding U.S. biofuel industries to supply the needs of a growing population.

B. Technology of Bioenergy

M. E. Tumbleson (University of Illinois, Urbana–Champaign)

This section reviews both broad and specific research priorities and demonstrates why overcoming the significant economic barriers to production of fuel ethanol and coproducts from cellulosic biomass is critical.

C. Economics and Rural Development of Bioenergy

Paul Gallagher (Iowa State University, Ames)

The emerging bioenergy and biobased industrial products industries offer the prospect of decreased energy imports with renewable and environmentally friendly fuels. Research in biomass and traditional crop conversion technology could decrease the cost of bioenergy and industrial products.

D. Environmental Effects of Bioenergy

Peter F. Smith (National Resources Conservation Service)

Although there is proven technology to convert biomass to energy, a major challenge is to implement this technology in an economical and resource-conserving manner. This section evaluates the impact that increased use of biofuels may have on land use, air quality, and wildlife.

E. Penetrating the Commercial Marketplace with Bioenergy

Marvin Duncan (USDA) and Philip L. Shane (Illinois Corn Growers Association)

Despite substantial investment in research to improve bioenergy production technology, widespread market penetration for bioenergy has not been realized. Understanding product environmental and performance characteristics is key to a product launch, as explained in this final section. To succeed, biofuels must be priced competitively and add more value than the competition.

“The Council for Agricultural Science and Technology once again addresses an issue of urgent international significance,” comments Teresa A. Gruber, CAST Executive Vice President. “And the new format of this latest publication helps emphasize the key components of bioenergy production and use. The numerous complexities of the energy issue have far-reaching implications that not only affect life today, but in significant measure will shape the future.”

The complete five-part publication, Bioenergy: Pointing to the Future (Issue Paper No. 27), 16 pp., can be accessed on the CAST website at, along with many of CAST’s other scientific publications, and is available in hardcopy for $5.00 (includes shipping) by contacting the CAST office at 515-292-2125. CAST is an international consortium of 37 scientific and professional societies. It assembles, interprets, and communicates science-based information regionally, nationally, and internationally on food, fiber, agricultural, natural resource, and related societal and environmental issues to its stakeholders—legislators, regulators, policymakers, the media, and the public.



Dr. Roger K. Conway: Phone 202-401-0461; E-mail
Dr. Don Erbach: Phone 301-504-4610; E-mail
Dr. Teresa A. Gruber: Phone 202-675-8333; E-mail

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