Rigid domestic demand for grain crops has forced China to turn its back on corn and rapeseed, the traditional raw materials used by the West for bioenergy production, and focus on crops whose annual output stands much higher, said an agricultural legislator Monday.
At a rural economic forum closed here on Monday, Vice Chairman Yin Chengjie of the Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee of the National People's Congress, China's top legislature, said the premise of China's bioenergy development strategy was "not to jeopardize food safety."
"The United States and the European Union have been grain-crop exporters for a long time. With the acceleration of their bioenergy production, however, they not only reduced exports but even imported more corn and rapeseed. That helped tilt the supply-demand balance and jack up the grain prices on international markets," said Yin.
"China must, and has the conditions to, explore a different road in biofuel production," he said.
For China, the bottleneck was not in processing technology but the country's limited farmland resources and grain crop shortage. Growing population and the accelerating produce-processing industries would also raise grain crop consumption, said Yin.
Yin said a viable way out was to use non-grain raw materials –especially wheat or rice stalks. China produces 700 million tons of wheat stalks each year, compared to only five million tons of grain crops.
Under traditional farming, when people were less aware of recycling and clean energy, farmers would normally let stalks rot away in the fields or simply set a fire for a quick cleanup. More than 500 million tons of stalks were estimated to have been wasted each year.
State Energy Bureau chief Zhang Guobao has said in the year's national legislature meeting in March that China should learn from past experiences and put new energy development onto "an important strategic position."
An increasing number of rural households have learned to recycle stalks by adding them to livestock manure into methane pools for power generation. By the end of 2008, some 30 million households have built their own methane pools with an aggregated yearly methane output of 12 billion cubic meters, equivalent to 17million standard coal.
Another 67 stalk power plants were built as of June 2008, transmitting 2.613 billion kilowatt hours into the national power grid.