Trees killed by bugs eyed as biofuel for cars
Millions of acres of U.S. forest lands are carpeted with stands of unsightly reddish-brown trees that were killed by voracious beetles the size of rice grains. A $10 million, five-year research program launched this week aims to determine if the beetle-killed trees can be turned into biofuel for cars and trucks without breaking the bank or exacerbating climate change, which is aiding the beetle mania.
“A crucial thing with biofuels is that we understand just how much greenhouse gases do we really offset. Because obviously if we use lots of fossil fuels or we cause lots of emissions in producing the biofuels, then we are really not gaining as much as we might hope to,” Keith Paustain, a soil ecologist who is leading the project at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, told NBC News.
The idea of using the dead trees as feedstock for bioenergy sounds promising. The trees are already there, which means they don’t require cultivation and thus skirt the food-versus-fuel debate that has clouded the push for corn-based ethanol, for example. The trees are also tinder for fueling forest fires that could prove catastrophic to mountain communities. Removing the trees reduces wildfire risk.
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