Saturday, December 09, 2006

Biofuels & Sustainable Agriculture

A quick bit of good news from a new study out of the University of Minnesota evaluating a diverse mix of perennial grasses and other flowering plants provide more usable energy per acre than corn grain ethanol or soybean biodiesel.

Now there’s often a lot of confusion generated around biofuels “in the leaves” of details. A strategic, whole-systems perspective tells us that moving from fossil fuels to biofuels helps with SP 1 violations – but for it really move us towards sustainability it must be done in a way that eventually eliminates SP2-4 violations. So if its biofuels are grown using huge amounts of pesticides & fertilizers that doesn’t help us with SP2 (and sets us back with regard to SP1, as its energy intensive to produce those). If they’re grown on huge tracks of previously natural areas, we’re done doing any good with regard to SP3, and if we get them from producers that exploit laborers (exposing them to toxins, underpaying them, etc) we’re not doing any good on SP4.

The good news is it’s fully possible to image creative ways to do this today – and by engaging on the process, we won’t be able to help but discover new innovations to continually do these things better. To keep the process moving, actions along this path should: 1) move us towards sustainability (i.e. not violating the 4 SPs), 2) be flexible platforms for supporting future actions, & 3) provide sufficient ROI to support & continue the process.


This study represents a great example of that – and touches on a couple of key components to sustainable agriculture & permaculture: integrating perennial crops (as the article says the roots sequester carbon, there’s less erosion from annual plowing and not all of the nutrients leave the soil with the harvest) & taking advantage of diversity (which when properly designed increases productivity by creating synergies, and mitigates risk of losses from pests & adverse weather conditions).

Check out this recap of the study with a link to the real deal.

Stay going.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks Georges, Here in Latin-America is the same, the Industry, Investors are focused on get $$ by Bio-fuels, and there are several collaterals to be consider, we are currently analyzing on a Bio-Diesel plant and technology used in spain,this methodolgy has as base raw material dirty oil like the one left over from Kitchens ,etc, and also produced by waste, so no primary row material are Involve, this is a good alternative to implement here in Colombia..

George said...

Tree planting Carbon Managers Campaign off to a good start


The Carbon Managers Limited, the carbon footprint, labelling and incentive scheme specialist, today comments on the support pledged by blue chip companies for it’s “Trees 4 Business Campaign”
The Carbon Managers seek to work with businesses to increase awareness of carbon issues, calculating carbon footprints, implementing carbon emission reductions, training staff, and incentivising clients with, for instance, carbon labelling schemes and tree planting.

Under the Trees 4 Business programme, companies commit to plant either 100, 250 or 500 trees, for which Carbon Managers issues an accreditation certificate and provides logos for marketing purposes – such as company’s notepaper or web presence. In addition, ‘Tree 500’ companies will have their commitment published on a readily-available public register.

Once planted, a company’s trees can be allocated within its business in a variety of ways, awarding them to members of staff for waste or energy saving initiatives, for instance. Alternatively a company could use the programme for more overt marketing purposes, giving away ‘trees with transactions’ to boost sales, or using them in a promotion to encourage customers to opt into a green online billing service.

The following companies are planting trees with the Carbon Managers: Sage (UK), Vent-Axia, Reflex Ltd, Sure Print Ltd, Kracker, Autodrive Options Ltd, MBM Omega Ltd, Jasper Franchise, Wax Communications, CMB Water Ltd and Branded Print.

One of the enlightened companies using Carbon Managers is Vent-Axia, the influential industry leader in systems to control the flow of fresh air, its temperature, humidity & cleanliness.



Simon Osborne, Head of Marketing said: “In today’s world of heightened environmental concern, customers and employees are increasingly attracted to companies with green credentials. They don’t necessarily have the time or the knowledge, however, to delve into the detailed science and latest guidance.

"Carbon Managers’ consultants validated our credentials and then summarised them into simple, easily understandable short-hands such as carbon labelling and incentives. For example, during Ecobuild 2008 at Earls Court this March, their tree planting programme proved highly effective in attracting more than 290 visitors to Vent-Axia’s exhibition stand over a three day period.”

Trees generate oxygen as they grow and both absorb and then retain the harmful greenhouse gas, Carbon Dioxide (CO2), during their lives. In addition to helping tackle global climate change, tree planting is also extremely beneficial to the local environment.

It actually provides a local cooling effect, it helps prevent soil erosion and reduce flash flooding, and, by providing habitats for many different species of the flora and fauna, it increases the bio-diversity index. Here in the UK only 12% of our land is wooded, compared with an average of 32% in each European country. Overall, the campaign is targeting 100,000 new trees in the UK during 2008.

Although tree planting is easily recognised by staff, consumers and communities alike as a positive eco-action, Carbon Managers is careful to position it as just one of many sustainable activities that companies should be undertaking; the first step of many towards combating climate change.

Carbon Managers is also conscious that planting must be undertaken responsibly, taking into account important factors such as additionality (would the trees have been planted anyway) and long term sustainability (once planted, are the trees going to be properly managed and will they survive long enough to deliver the best practicable environmental benefit?

Geremy Thomas, CEO of Carbon Managers, concludes: “The science behind global warming is so fluid that businesses and consumers alike, quite literally, cannot see the wood for the trees. They are increasingly confused about what action to take and which choices to make. Regardless of whether you understand the exact role that trees play in controlling climate change, their overall environmental, biodiversity and aesthetic benefits are more immediately obvious.

"Our ‘Trees 4 Business’ campaign cuts through that scientific fog, not only representing a highly tangible and powerful demonstration that enrolled organisations take environmental issues seriously, but also helping them communicate and share that commitment with their customers, prospects, employees, communities and stakeholders.”
www.carbonmanagers.com

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