Energy is not only the essence of life, but also a great driving force determining a country’s economic stability and security benefits. Struck by the first oil crisis in 1973 and the oil price hikes since 2000, the U.S. government has learned the urgent needs to increase the national energy independence. To avoid constantly exposing to this energy vulnerability, the U.S. government has made various efforts including expanding the production of biofuels. However, biofuels do not come free.
As the US Department of Agriculture stated “…environmental uncertainties to be expected as the second-generation biofuel production emerges.” The global communities also projected that the water demand associated with the increase in biofuel production will increase by 74% in 2017 as compared to 2009 if agricultural and irrigation schemes remain the same. According to US Government Accountability Office (GAO), understanding and managing the energy and water tradeoffs is one of the urgent tasks on the national level. In the Energy Policy Act of 2005, Congress also directed the Department of Energy (DOE) to establish a federal program to address the energy-water nexus as an effort for preventing negative environmental consequences. The US is not alone in fighting this issue. For example, the World Bank has listed the water-energy nexus one of the key factors driving future sustainability, and has launched the Water Partnership Program to play an influencing role of the water-energy nexus.
To better support biofuel policies, the Energy Systems Division has made efforts to identify biofuel’s water implications through various feedstocks pathways since 2006. We have investigated water footprint associated with the production of biofuels generated from several proposed feedstock, including conventional crops, agricultural residue, woody residue, algae, and perennial grass. In this presentation, I will brief the research efforts, scopes, results, and how the findings can be employed to support energy decision-making processes.