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P sustainability in New Yorker blog

February 23, 2010

The Future of Phosphorous: Think Tank : The New Yorker.

Back in January, I had a chance to meet with with Steve Coll, Pulitzer Prize winning author from the New Yorker and Executive Director of the New America Foundation.  We talked about, you guessed it, phosphorus!  Bruce Rittman was there as well and one thing both he and I agreed on is that there is no way that crop-based bioenergy (corn ethanol, switchgrass) can possibly be a viable bioenergy solution.  Bruce estimates that if crop-based bioenergy was scaled up to make a real dent in liquid fuel demand, we would probably DOUBLE the current unsustainable P fertilizer demand.  Algae/cyanobacteria/microbial systems do not have this problem, because the P (and other nutrient elements) can be readily trapped and re-used.  No chance of that in an Illinois farm field, which already loses 50% of its P inputs to erosion and runoff.

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