The Path Forward for Biofuels and Biomaterials
Arthur J. Ragauskas1,*,
Charlotte K. Williams4,
Brian H. Davison6,
Charles A. Eckert3,
William J. Frederick Jr.3,
Jason P. Hallett3,
David J. Leak5,
Charles L. Liotta1,
Jonathan R. Mielenz6,
1 School of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA 30332, USA. 2.
2 School of Biology, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA 30332, USA. 3.
3 School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA 30332, USA. 4.
4 Department of Chemistry, Imperial College London, London SW7 2AZ, UK. 5.
5 Division of Biology, Imperial College London, London SW7 2AZ, UK. 6.
6 Life Sciences Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN 37831, USA. 7.
7 Environmental Sciences Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN 37831, USA. 1.
↵* To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org ABSTRACT
Biomass represents an abundant carbon-neutral renewable resource for the production of bioenergy and biomaterials, and its enhanced use would address several societal needs. Advances in genetics, biotechnology, process chemistry, and engineering are leading to a new manufacturing concept for converting renewable biomass to valuable fuels and products, generally referred to as the biorefinery. The integration of agroenergy crops and biorefinery manufacturing technologies offers the potential for the development of sustainable biopower and biomaterials that will lead to a new manufacturing paradigm. We are apt to forget the gasoline shortages of the 1970s or the fuel price panic after Hurricane Katrina, but these are but harbingers of the inevitable excess of growing demand over dwindling supplies of geological reserves. Before we freeze in the dark, we must prepare to make the transition from nonrenewable carbon resources to renewable bioresources. This paper is a road map for such an endeavor. Among the earliest drivers of chemical and biochemical research were the benefits to be gained from converting biomass into fuels and chemical products. At the beginning of the 20th century, many industrial materials such as dyes, solvents, and synthetic fibers were made from trees and agricultural crops. By the late 1960s, many of these bio-based chemical products had been displaced by petroleum derivatives (1). The energy crisis of the 1970s sparked renewed interest in the synthesis of fuels and materials from bioresources. This interest waned in the decades that followed as the oil price abated. However, this meant that global consumption of liquid petroleum tripled in the ensuing years (2). Indeed, energy demand is projected to grow by more than 50% by 2025, with much of this increase in demand emerging from several rapidly developing nations. Clearly, increasing demand for finite petroleum resources cannot be a satisfactory policy for the long term. Hoffert et al. (3) and others (4) have provided a global perspective on these energy challenges and their relationship to global climate stability. As these authors point out, future reductions in the ecological footprint of energy generation will reside in a multifaceted approach that includes nuclear, solar, hydrogen, wind, and fossil fuels (from which carbon is sequestered) and biofuels. These concerns have also been advanced by the recent Joint Science Academies' statement to the Gleneagles G8 Summit in July 2005, Global Response to Climate Change, which asserts that the warming of the planet can be attributed to human activities and identifies the need for action now to pinpoint cost-effective steps to contribute to substantial and long-term reductions in net greenhouse gas emissions (5). Shifting society's dependence away from petroleum to renewable...
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S. A. Nolen, C. L. Liotta, C. A. Eckert, Green Chem. 5, 663 (2003).
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