Fuel ethanol from energy plants is expected to play an increasing role in the future energy system, with benefits in terms of greenhouse gas emissions and energy security. In China, cassava is believed to be the most promising energy plants for fuel ethanol production. This study focuses on assessment of the development potential and environmental performances of fuel ethanol produced from cassava in Southwest China. An improved approach combining life cycle analysis (LCA) and Geographic Information System (GIS) techniques is presented. Firstly, spatial distribution, suitability degree and the total amount of marginal land resources suitable for cultivating cassava is identified. Then, the life cycle net energy and greenhouse gas emission reduction capacity of cassava on marginal land with different suitability degrees were calculated, based on the expanded life cycle model for cassava fuel ethanol. The results indicate that the area of marginal land for cassava plantation is 5.667 × 106 ha in Southwest China. The maximum net energy production potential of fuel ethanol in this area is 6.5 × 107 GJ/a, and the total greenhouse gas emission reduction capacity is 1.43 × 106 t/a.
Key words: Cassava fuel ethanol, life cycle analysis, geographic information system, net energy production potential, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction.
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