Will water be the limiting factor in biofuel production?

I have blogged in the past about the relationship between water and biofuels. There can’t be conventional grain-based biofuels without water. But there was an interesting post on EurActive a little earlier today in response to the annual Davos meeting. This year it produced a  Water Initiative.

Buried deep (page 22),the Davos report it suggests that first generation biofuels take between 32 and 360 cubic meters of water to generate 1 MW/h power.

The report adds

Plans to switch from gasoline to electricity or biofuels to increase energy security are effectively a strategic decision to switch dependence from foreign oil to domestic water. Attempts to alleviate some serious problems – such as energy security and climate change – can aggravate an even more serious problem, acute water shortages.

The report points to a couple of recent examples of water shortages in the US and Europe.The tension between water and energy is already visible in the US and Europe.

• The Department of Energy report to Congress on the interdependency of energy and water stated that energy production is very much at the mercy of water availability

• Utilities in the US recognize that water quantity is becoming a significant permitting issue – Maryland County denies cooling water to proposed power plants18

• Tennessee Valley Authority shut down one of three reactors at its Browns Ferry nuclear plant to avoid heating the Tennessee River to dangerous levels. Due to a drought that reduced the river level and hottest temperatures in 50 years, the plant could not discharge the cooling tower water since it would have crossed the permissible limit.


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One Response to Will water be the limiting factor in biofuel production?

  1. Tara 24 February, 2009 at 3:19 am #

    Nice article – it’s true, processes are not always thought all the way through to see what other problems could/would be created. Running low on water is definitely not a good or viable option.

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