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Naturwissenschaften. 2009 Feb;96(2):279-88. doi: 10.1007/s00114-008-0479-4. Epub 2008 Dec 10.

Sustainable global energy supply based on lignocellulosic biomass from afforestation of degraded areas.

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Institute of Pure and Applied Chemistry, Carl von Ossietzky Universität Oldenburg, 26111, Oldenburg, Germany.


An important aspect of present global energy scenarios is the assumption that the amount of biomass that can be grown on the available area is so limited that a scenario based on biomass as the major source of energy should be unrealistic. We have been investigating the question whether a Biomass Scenario may be realistic. We found that the global energy demand projected by the International Energy Agency in the Reference Scenario for the year 2030 could be provided sustainably and economically primarily from lignocellulosic biomass grown on areas which have been degraded by human activities in historical times. Moreover, other renewable energies will contribute to the energy mix. There would be no competition with increasing food demand for existing arable land. Afforestation of degraded areas and investment for energy and fuel usage of the biomass are not more expensive than investment in energy infrastructure necessary up to 2030 assumed in the fossil energy based Reference Scenario, probably much cheaper considering the additional advantages such as stopping the increase of and even slowly reducing the CO(2) content of the atmosphere, soil, and water conservation and desertification control. Most importantly, investment for a Biomass Scenario would be actually sustainable, in contrast to investment in energy-supply infrastructure of the Reference Scenario. Methods of afforestation of degraded areas, cultivation, and energetic usage of lignocellulosic biomass are available but have to be further improved. Afforestation can be started immediately, has an impact in some few years, and may be realized in some decades.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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