by Alicia Pimental
January 14, 2010
Homegrown energy could reduce millions of pounds of nutrients from entering the Chesapeake Bay’s streams, creeks and rivers and create more than 18,000 jobs in the region, according to a new report released by the Chesapeake Bay Commission and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Chesapeake Biofuel Policies: Balancing Energy, Economy and Environment points out three major benefits of producing “next-generation biofuels” – energy derived from plant materials – in the Chesapeake region:
- The region’s farms, forests and landfills could realistically produce about 500 million gallons of fuel -- equivalent to a six-week supply of gasoline for the Washington, D.C. metro area.
- Raising the crops, refining the fuel and getting it to market would support about 18,559 jobs.
- Raising switchgrass, willows and poplars for fuel on suitable land would reduce water pollution from fertilizers by millions of pounds.
The team of scientists, economists and other experts who wrote the report predict that by 2020, the region could produce 500 million gallons of biofuels per year, using only land and practices that improve the health of the Bay and its network of local waterways.
“A next-generation biofuels industry can create major advances for the Bay region in economic growth, renewable energy produced sustainably right here at home, and improve water quality by reducing runoff to the Chesapeake Bay,” said Maryland Senator Thomas “Mac” Middleton, Chairman of the Chesapeake Bay Commission and the only full-time farmer in the Maryland General Assembly.
Over the past three years, Pennsylvania and the Chesapeake Bay Commission have worked to position the Chesapeake region as a national leader in the evolution to sustainable advanced biofuels. Two previous Chesapeake Bay Commission reports released in 2007 and 2008 set the stage for regional biofuel production by presenting scientific information and policy recommendations on next-generation biofuels.
Chesapeake Biofuel Policies presents several recommendations from a select Biofuels Advisory Panel:
- Adopt a regional biofuels production target and set supporting state-specific production goals
- Develop biomass harvest guidelines
- Use winter crops as feedstocks
- Avoid introduction of invasive species as biofuel feedstocks
- Create a Regional Council for Bioenergy Development
Visit the Chesapeake Bay Commission’s website to download the full report.