The US Department of Energy (DOE) has issued a Request for Information (DE-FOA-0000908, RFI-0000003) regarding the potential environmental impacts of engineered high energy crops, such as those being investigated under the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy’s (ARPA-E) Plants Engineered to Replace Oil (PETRO) program (earlier post), and potential future DOE programs to support the development and demonstration of such crops through field trials.
Such crops could be the source of significant fuel resources from biological production DOE said, noting that therefore it is extremely important to understand their potential impact on the environment. DOE will consider responses to the RFI in the development of an Advance Notice of Intent (NOI) to prepare a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS), which would analyze the potential environmental impacts of such DOE programs.
Dedicated, engineered energy crops that produce more energy per acre and produce molecules that require little or no processing prior to being introduced into existing infrastructure (e.g., refineries, pipelines, and vehicles), would help enable agriculturally-derived fuels that are cost-competitive with petroleum-based fuels.
Examples of engineered high energy crops include those being investigated under ARPA-E’s PETRO program as well as other projects that have a similar objective of engineering crops for increased energy capture.
Among the specific questions in the RFI are:
How do you define “engineered high energy crops?” What are examples of these crops that you think may emerge in the future? What characteristics do you think are desirable in an engineered high energy crop? What characteristics would be undesirable?
Agriculture is regional. Should DOE focus its initial efforts on specific geographic regions for the first development of engineered high energy crops? If so, what are these regions?
Are there specific engineered high energy crops that DOE should consider developing first in these geographic regions?
Is it more appropriate to examine impacts of engineered high energy crops by ecoregion (areas characterized as similar due to the presence or absence of similar biotic and abiotic phenomena), or by a legal boundary such as a state or county? Are there other delineations that might be used to determine the regional impacts of such crops?
What are the key concerns for the development and demonstration of engineered high energy crops? How could these concerns be mitigated? What are specific concerns regarding establishment of development-scale field trials (up to 5 acres)? What are specific concerns regarding establishment of medium-scale field trials (up to 100 acres)? What are specific concerns regarding establishment of demonstration-scale field trials (up to 15,000 acres)?
What are the potential benefits (environmental, economic, etc.) from the development and demonstration of engineered high energy crops and are they dependent on the specific geography in which the crops are grown? Will these benefits be observed at a development scale (i.e., field trials up to 5 acres) or only at larger scale deployment?
What specific agencies or organizations should DOE consider engaging with regarding an engineered high energy crop program? What specific concerns would these agencies or organizations be expected to address?
What are examples of non-engineered high energy crops that you think may emerge in the future? What characteristics do you think are desirable in a non-engineered high energy crop? What characteristics would be undesirable? Provide examples of crops that you think should be included or excluded from this definition, and why.
Responses are due by 19 April 2013.