COLLEGE STATION – Knowing how bioenergy industry development will impact local and national economies is the focus of two studies being conducted by Dr. Jianbang Gan, a professor in forest management and economics in the Texas A&M University ecosystem science and management department.
Gan, also a Texas A&M AgriLife Research scientist, will participate in a U.S. Department of Energy grant of $6.25 million with a group of other universities and organizations, led by the University of Florida.
This grant is related to the U.S and India agreement on clean energy research, Gan said. The project will look at the entire bioenergy chain: feedstock production, biofuel conversion and distribution, as well as economic, policy and sustainability issues. Gan will focus on the economic and policy analysis and sustainability standard development of the initiative.
“My part on this five-year project is to look at how to make production sustainable from the ecological, economic and social perspective,” he said. “If we use plant residues as biofuel feedstock, for example, how much to remove is economically profitable and ecologically sustainable?”
He will work with soil and crop scientists, as well as others, to look at nutrient and carbon cycles, then build a model to balance out economic, ecological and social criteria.
Job creation, particularly in rural areas, is another major benefit of biofuel development, Gan said. How does a biofuel sector compare with other energy sectors in terms of job creation and economic impacts on rural communities?
“Does it make sense to use bioenergy if we have cheap and abundant shale gas?” he asked. “The project is also intended to answer questions like this.”
Gan is also working on a $350,000 three-year grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that will focus on the social economic impacts of bioenergy development in the southern U.S.
“Texas is a major player in bioenergy development in this region,” he said. “In this study, I will be looking more at the local impact.”