Biomass Energy Production Should Not Compromise Food Sources!

Michael Nobel, a great grand nephew of Alfred Nobel, founder of the Nobel Prize, said Wednesday that the quest for alternative energy should not overshadow the need for food production.
 
 
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May 16, 2008 - PRLog -- Biomass energy production should not compromise food sources: Nobel 08/05/14 18:34:55

  Taipei, May 14 (CNA) Michael Nobel, a great grand nephew of Alfred Nobel, founder of the Nobel Prize, said Wednesday that the quest for alternative energy should not overshadow the need for food production.

  With many countries looking at biofuels as a major solution to the shortage and surging price of energy, Nobel said he is uncomfortable with the idea of food being used as an energy resource, while millions of people are living under threat of starvation.

  "I would strongly suggest a shift from edible substances to cellulose-based substances" in the strategy to develop biomass energy, said Nobel, advocating that this could help to achieve a balance between the food crisis and the development of biomass energy.

  Taiwan, which has relatively limited farmland acreage and almost totally relies on imported oil for its energy needs, has incorporated Nobel's concept into its long-term energy and agricultural planning.

  Taiwanese researchers, including those in the nation's top research institute Academia Sinica, have been developing technology to genetically modify plants such as rice and sugarcane in order to reduce growing time and increase the level of ethanol production.

  They are also trying to use low-cost and fibrous plants, as well as rice straw and sugarcane waste, to minimize costs while guaranteeing an adequate food supply.

  According to the Council of Agriculture, the cost of producing biomass energy from edible plants is too high, and Taiwan's climate is unsuitable for growing certain types of plants for biofuel.  

  As for nuclear power as alternative energy source, Nobel said he's "ambivalent" about that option as it involves safety concerns.

  According to Nobel, the major problem with nuclear energy is dealing with accidents and the disposal of radioactive waste.

  However, "it is a very nice power generating (option)," he said, noting that it is efficient in producing a lot of power, has no emissions, and the ecological changes caused by the waste warm water from its reactors are minimal.

  In an interview with local reporters, Nobel specifically urged the Taiwan government to play a more active role in environmental protection, through such measures as encouraging the installation of "intelligent environment" systems, subsidizing electric cars, and providing tax incentives to businesses that invent new techniques to help reduce carbon emissions.

  "The government has the power and responsibility to do this, " he said, adding that he would like to see a comprehensive government program to reduce energy consumption.

  The intelligent environment system adjusts the settings on air conditioners based on humidity, temperature, and the density of carbon dioxide in the indoor air, so as to conserve energy.

  Nobel, who is the president of the Nobel Charitable Trust, an organization devoted to developing renewable energies and protecting the environment, is in Taiwan for a six-day visit. He delivered the keynote speech Tuesday at the Energy Efficiency and Green Environment Forum.
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