Researching non-food crop biofuel sources

Foresight about the impact on food prices and security, and the social implications for third world countries of sourcing biofuels from food crops guided NSW DPI to research second generation feedstocks.

More sustainable non-food crop feedstocks, such as agricultural and forestry waste - together with dedicated energy crops - are the preferred option.

NSW DPI is researching the potential for production of biofuels, particularly ethanol, via lignocellulose, from woody plants which contain lignin and cellulose.

NSW DPI director of resources research, Rob Young, says when contemplating bioenergy production, it’s imperative to also consider broader social and environmental impacts.

"For example, clearing Asian rainforests to produce palm oil could deliver a worse overall environmental outcome than using fossil fuels," Mr Young said.

"We have also seen significant social impacts from rising food prices in developing countries that are, at least in part, due to use of agricultural crops for ethanol.

"We’re confident we’re on the right path focussing on biomass sources, but it’s too soon to tell how second generation biofuels will stack up in terms of economics."