Conference Solidifies Importance of Biomass

I want to thank everyone who attended the International Biomass '08 Conference & Trade Show that was held in Minneapolis in April. It was great to visit with people in the industry and to witness firsthand the enthusiasm that we try to convey in Biomass Magazine.

Although I couldn't possibly make it to every session of the conference, the ones I attended covered everything from biomass processing to permitting and life cycle assessment to project finance. If you didn't get a chance to attend the conference, check out the Event feature that starts on page 18.

I think it's clear to most Americans that we can no longer solely rely on petroleum and coal for our energy needs. I have to agree with Lee Lynd, cofounder and chief scientific officer of Mascoma Corp., and a speaker at the conference, who noted that it will take a host of solutions including the use of renewable fuels, increased vehicle fuel efficiency, increased crop and biomass production on underutilized land, increased crop and biomass yields, and advanced biomass processing methods to wean us from our dependence on fossil fuels. His comments about agriculture were thought-provoking, particularly when he said that we need to "re-imagine agriculture to accommodate large-scale energy production."

I think that's already starting to happen to some extent as farmers look into the prospect of growing switchgrass and develop equipment to harvest corn, cobs and stover to make cellulosic ethanol. No doubt, the pressure on farmers to produce crops for food, feed, fuel and the export market has intensified. However, I'm confident, as I saw farmers out planting crops this spring, that with help from scientists, engineers and plant breeders, they are up to the task.