That biofuels can contribute to a cleaner global energy mix is widely accepted, but the net benefits of bioenergy in terms of mitigating greenhouse gases (GHG) are moot. Some argue, for example, that biofuels are not sustainable because the conversion of non-agricultural land to grow energy crops could lead to a significant initial decrease in carbon storage, creating what is known as a “biofuel carbon debt”.
A study by a cross-border group of researchers published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) could help refute this argument.
The study showed that the GHG mitigation potential of switchgrass cultivation for cellulosic ethanol production in the US was comparable on a per-hectare basis to that of reforestation and several times greater than that of grassland restoration. Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) is a widely grown North American native grass proposed as biomass for the biobased economy.
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