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Briefing Date:10/09/2007
Topic:Water Implications of Biofuels Production in the United States

National Research Council
Division on Earth and Life Studies
Water Science and Technology Board


Congressional Briefings
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
366 Dirksen Senate Office Bldg. – 2:00 p.m.
2325 Rayburn House Office Bldg. – 4:00 p.m.



Water Implications of Biofuels Production in the United States


Jerald L. Schnoor, Allen S. Henry Chair Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering; Co-Director, the Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, The University of Iowa; and Chair, NRC Colloquium on Water Implications of Biofuels, Water Science and Technology Board, National Research Council

Otto C. Doering, Professor, Department of Agricultural Economics, Purdue University; and Member, NRC Colloquium on Water Implications of Biofuels, Water Science and Technology Board, National Research Council

Because of a strong U.S. national interest in greater energy independence, biofuels have become important liquid transportation fuels and are likely to remain so for the foreseeable future. Currently, ethanol derived from corn kernels is the main biofuel in the United States, with ethanol from “cellulosic” plant sources (such as corn stalks and wheat straw, native grasses, and forest trimmings) expected to begin commercially within the next decade. Among the possible challenges to biofuel development that may not have received appropriate attention are its effects on water and related land resources. The central questions are how water use and water quality are expected to change as the U.S. agricultural portfolio shifts to include more energy crops and as overall agricultural production potentially increases. To help illuminate these issues, the Water Science and Technology Board (WSTB) of the National Research Council held a colloquium on “Water Implications of Biofuels Production in the United States” in Washington, D.C. This report draws some conclusions about the water implications of biofuels production based on discussions at the colloquium, written submissions of participants, the peer-reviewed literature, and the best professional judgments of the committee.

These briefings were for members of Congress and congressional staff only. The report was publicly released on Wednesday, October 10, 2007 and can be found, in its entirety, on the Web site of the National Academies Press.

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