Reducing fossil fuel dependence

One of the most difficult challenges of this century will be finding ways to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels while at the same time providing improved quality of life for an expanding human population and preserving biodiversity.

While we cannot know the future, it is not difficult to predict that the intersection of major trends such as depletion of petroleum reserves, expanding population, and climate change will be accompanied by many ideological or political conflicts in which science and engineering will be called upon to support arguments for or against various proposed solutions.

Indeed, important aspects of this vital public dialog have been underway for some time and are likely to grow increasingly complex as new information and new perspectives are brought to the discussion.  In the relatively young field of energy biosciences, the past several years have witnessed vigorous debate about issues such as the indirect land use consequences of biofuels and the effects of biofuels on food security.

Although these and other issues can be converted to convenient sound bites or headlines that advance one or another point of view, it is apparent that important facts and context may get lost in passionate but sometimes incomplete or oversimplified discourse.

As informed participants in the academic side of the bioenergy field, my colleagues and I at the Energy Biosciences Institute are frequently approached by individuals from government, the media, educational institutions, and industry seeking to understand at a deeper level the complex issues facing our new field. We welcome these inquiries and are always grateful for the opportunity to provide analysis and understanding when we can and to learn from the issues raised and the dialog that ensues.

In response, we have launched Bioenergy Connection in the hope that this new magazine can become a useful summary of contemporary research, emerging policies, and trends in the general field of energy biosciences.

Our goal is to introduce the questions that drive current research, to spotlight the people who are moving the field forward, and to provide explanations to a range of issues in terms that will broaden knowledge and understanding by specialists and non-specialists alike.

Diversity of opinion is the lifeblood of meaningful discourse so we intend to present conflicting ideas where there are evidence-based arguments propelling divergent conclusions.  Our long-term ambition is to present a global perspective but we believe that an initial focus on a few of the most active areas of the world represents enough of a challenge for a new magazine. We are grateful to the distinguished members of our editorial advisory board for their assistance in establishing the scope and advising on the content of the magazine. 

Finally, while we will draw from the expertise of the EBI team and our academic and industry colleagues here and abroad, we hope to solicit advice from the readership of the magazine about what topics would be most useful in moving the conversation forward.

We welcome your feedback on this, our inaugural issue, and encourage you to share your thoughts and suggestions for future issues. We can be reached at bioenergyconnection@berkeley.edu and through a website that will be launched soon to complement the printed version of the magazine.

 

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