WHY THIS BOOK? This book is an exploration of the possibility that a significant portion of the North American Great Plains (NAGP), w primarily in rangeland, corn, soybean, and small-grain production, can be converted to the production of biomass-energy crops. Biomass can be used as a substitute for some of the fossil fuels the use of which is w increasing the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide (CO ) 2 and contributing to global warming and climatic change. Such a land use change to biomass could lead t only to a global good but also to specific ecomic and environmental benefits for the NAGP region. This analysis is prompted by the following facts and trends: The emission of CO from fossil fuel combustion and tropical deforesta- 2 tion and the rising concentrations of other greenhouse gases make global warming a virtual certainty in this century; indeed the evidence is strong that a warming is already discernible. Global warming will lead to climatic change and, while the geographic d- tribution of this change is t yet kwn, most general circulation models (GCMs) suggest that midcontinental regions in the rthern hemisphere (such as the NAGP) are likely to become drier as well as warmer. NAGP, one of the world s major breadbaskets, is subject to periodic droughts and other climatic stresses that may worsen with global wa- ing.
The author is Regent's Professor Emeritus of Agricultural Meteorology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Laboratory Fellow Emeritus at the Joint Global Change Research Institute, a collaboration of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the University of Maryland-College Park.