University of Arkansas, Fayetteville Division of Agriculture


As negative environmental and economic impacts of fossil fuels have escalated, so has the importance of renewable bioenergy crops whose feedstocks are noncompetitive with food supplies. Compared with fossil fuels, use of lignocellulosic feedstocks offers potential for greenhouse gas reduction and highly positive net energy returns because of low input demand and high yields per unit of land area, thus making them advantageous for the emerging biofuel industry. The aim of this study was to simulate environmental impacts of producing a biofuel grass for combustion use based on the inventory of inputs and their effects on eutrophication of surface waters; acidification of land and water; photochemical ozone-creation potential (i.e. smog); global atmospheric warming; and nonrenewable resource depletion (mainly fossil fuels). Hybrid miscanthus (Miscanthus x giganteus, or giant miscanthus), a perennial C4 grass originating from East Asia, was compared with natural gas by using a life-cycle analysis model for biomass production in France. The analysis showed a trade-off between natural gas and miscanthus. The latter had a lower global-warming potential and consumed less primary nonrenewable energy but produced more emissions that promote acidification and eutrophication than did natural gas.