Wednesday, April 26, 2006

America’s strategic imperative: a “Manhattan Project” for energy

Interesting paper from the American Joint Forces Quarterly. America’s strategic imperative: a “Manhattan Project” for energy.

One of the points.

Biorefineries also hold great prom­ise for urban areas. A typical large city has a substantial surplus of yard waste and wood debris, products that can no longer be deposited in landfills. New York and Philadelphia pay $150 per ton to dispose of municipal solid waste. Creating a simple urban wood recy­cling routine of household recycling bins would ensure a steady biomass supply and strengthen the economics of urban biorefineries through prox­imity to markets. Building an urban biorefinery in the hundred largest met­ropolitan areas could produce 7 billion gallons of ethanol a year, offsetting imported oil by 5 percent while help­ing solve urban waste problems.
Farmers need incentives to grow energy crops such as switchgrass, a na­tive plant that does not require fertil­izer or irrigation. It is estimated that 15 percent of the North American con­tinent consists of land that is unsuit­able for food farming but workable for switchgrass cultivation. “If all that land was planted with switchgrass, we could replace every single gallon of gas consumed in the United States with ethanol.”18 Farm policies that encour­age energy crop plantations are crucial for creating a firm supply base for cel­lulosic ethanol.

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