One day a year, Americans celebrate the Earth and often think about what they’re doing to help protect the environment in which we live. Here at the Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO), every day is Earth Day, and mitigating the impacts petroleum use has on climate change is one of the primary reasons why BETO and its partners work every day to develop a domestic biomass industry.
BETO is committed to developing sustainable sources of renewable energy that displace fossil fuels, enhance energy security, promote environmental benefits, and create economic opportunities (Image courtesy of BCS, Incorporated)
At BETO, we research, develop, and demonstrate new technologies and processes to create biofuels and bioproducts from biomass—an energy resource derived from organic matter. Biomass can include leftover stalks, stems, and leaves from corn plants and other crops, as well as grasses, forest residues, algae, and solid waste, which can be converted to biofuel and bioproducts through chemical and thermal processes. BETO’s ongoing investments to develop biomass-based alternatives to reduce or replace petroleum lead to many potential environmental benefits:
- Benefitting the Land: Growing biomass for biofuels has the potential to improve the quality of the land on which they are grown by reducing the potential for soil erosion and restoring soil carbon levels that are essential for maintained crop productivity. BETO’s Sustainability Program conducts applied research to identify and measure the potential environmental, social, and economic benefits from biomass growth and bioenergy use.
- Decreasing Carbon Pollution: Utilizing biomass-based products and fuels helps to cut carbon pollution, which keeps our air and water clean. Biofuels have a lower net greenhouse gas impact than petroleum-based fuels because biomass absorbs carbon dioxide as it grows—offsetting the emissions from the biofuel it produces. In the fossil fuels supply chain, greenhouse gases are not naturally reabsorbed, contributing to increased levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
- Managing Water Resources: BETO works with partners to conduct research and analyses on water quality and to minimize the impact of biofuels production on water resources. Water resource management is a part of a broader effort to assess and monitor sustainability.
As Earth Day comes and goes, BETO will continue its daily celebration—working with our partners to develop an environmentally responsible biofuels industry. Happy Earth Day!