Michigan State researchers have revised upward the estimate for soil based carbon storage, according to research published Tuesday in the journal Global Change Biology.

Researchers G. Phillip Robertson, Stephen K. Hamilton, Keith Paustian, and Pete Smith wrote that a high degree of certainty exists that land-based carbon storage can accomplish about 2.5 gigatons of CO2 equivalent (Gt CO2e) per year after wider adaptation of electric vehicles, with a maximum capacity of about 110 Gt CO2e. That estimate is near the mid-point of the capacity.

"This value is ~50% greater than either prior bottom-up estimates that exclude bioenergy or top-down estimates that rely mostly on bioenergy," they wrote. "Although not a panacea and insufficient by itself, the potential for U.S. land-based climate mitigation that includes both natural climate solutions and bioenergy is significant and deserves sensible support."

The group reached that estimate by leaving land use dedicated to food production in the U.S. unchanged, and increasing land used for liquid biofuel production — not ethanol, but rather fuels derived from switchgrass and other plants— while avoiding conversion for forests, wetlands and existing conservation lands.

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