Water quality implications of bio-fuels development in Georgia
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Georgia’s energy for electricity comes mostly from fossil fuels and nuclear power plants, and the energy for transportation comes almost solely from petroleum. Much of the state’s new electric power supply slated for development is natural gas. Negative impacts of conventional fuel based systems include pollution of water resources (e.g. contaminants such as mercury ending up in water bodies through atmospheric deposition, direct contamination through tanker oil spills, leaking underground storage tanks, etc), excessively high volumes of water intake in electric power plant operations, and large water consumption (i.e. water lost primarily through evaporation in cooling systems). There is a strong need to advance less water intensive energy technologies such as clean, renewable forms of energy, including various bio-fuels, wind, and solar technologies. These energy sources can offer substantial water quality benefits in contrast to Georgia’s current energy mix and at the same time offer local economic benefits. In Georgia, bio-fuels are currently seen to provide the biggest, near-term opportunity among renewable supplies, with over 17 million tons/yr of biomass available and as much as 12% of the State’s total electricity demand could be generated from biomass. The benefits to the state include increased self-sufficiency, improved water resource quality, and long-term environmental and rural development benefits.