One of the biggest issues facing the production of low carbon biofuels are the effects production can have on the biodiversity on agriculture. That is set to change, as scientists in the UK have have identified a plant that will deliver a shot to the arm of the biofuel industry; the Agave plant, more commonly known for the spirit tequila, has the potential to grow on marginal agricultural land and so would have limited impact on global food production and biodiversity.
A report from the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment identifies significant advantages of using agave plants. Xiaoyu Yan, a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, said: “Our analysis highlights the promising opportunities for bioenergy production from agaves in arid or semi-arid regions, causing minimum pressure on food production and water resources. The results suggest that ethanol derived from agave is likely to be superior, or at least comparable, to that from corn, switchgrass and sugarcane in terms of energy and GHG balances, as well as ethanol output.”
Biofuel production has come under pressure around the world for the impact it can have on agriculture and in particular, food production. Many think that biofuels will be hugely important in the future for the transformation of the transport sector, as the global economy cuts back on carbon.
Professor Sir David King, Director of the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, said: “We are faced with mounting concerns over our dependence on fossil fuels. The transport sector uses 60% of global oil production and has relied almost entirely on petroleum-based liquid fuels for over a century, making it arguably the most challenging sector to overcome.”
The report, ‘Life cycle energy and greenhouse gas analysis for agave-derived ethanol’ presents the first comprehensive life cycle analysis of the energy and greenhouse gas balance for agave-derived ethanol.