As a source of alternative fuels, ligneous biomass offers two significant advantages: trees can grow on low-yield land unsuited for food production and supply the energy required for producing derived fuels. Technologies for its conversion into substitutes for gasoline and especially for diesel fuel are complex and expensive. Harnessing and applying them will however be pushed forward by the double challenge of oil resource depletion and global warming. Ample sunlight and high rainfall suggest that the tropics may be the preferred areas where plantation forests dedicated to lignocellulose fuel production (or lignofuels as distinct from agrofuels) could be established. At petroleum prices 10 to 20% above 2007 levels, the authors conclude that a “bioethanol outlet” for tropical forest plantations on deforested idle lands and humid savannahs is viable. To meet the very rapid expected growth in demand for biomass, such projects should thus be initiated now. Key issues to be covered in related feasibility studies are discussed herein.
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Vol. 10 • No. 4