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Energy-Water Nexus: Many Uncertainties Remain about National and Regional Effects of Increased Biofuel Production on Water Resources

GAO-10-116 Published: Nov 30, 2009. Publicly Released: Nov 30, 2009.
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In response to concerns about the nation's energy dependence on imported oil, climate change, and other issues, the federal government has encouraged the use of biofuels. Water plays a crucial role in all stages of biofuel production--from cultivation of feedstock through its conversion into biofuel. As demand for water from various sectors increases and places additional stress on already constrained supplies, the effects of expanded biofuel production may need to be considered. To understand these potential effects, GAO was asked to examine (1) the known water resource effects of biofuel production in the United States; (2) agricultural conservation practices and technological innovations that could address these effects and any barriers to their adoption; and (3) key research needs regarding the effects of water resources on biofuel production. To address these issues, GAO reviewed scientific studies, interviewed experts and federal and state officials, and selected five states to study their programs and plans related to biofuel production. GAO is not making any recommendations in this report. A draft of this report was provided to the Departments of Agriculture (USDA), Energy (DOE), and the Interior (DOI); and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). USDA, DOE, and DOI concurred with the report and, in addition to EPA, provided technical comments, which were incorporated as appropriate.

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