With the goal of understanding environmental effects of a growing bioeconomy, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), national laboratories, and U.S. Forest Service research laboratories, together with academic and industry collaborators, undertook a study to estimate environmental effects of potential biomass production scenarios in the United States, with an emphasis on agricultural and forest biomass. Potential effects investigated include changes in soil organic carbon (SOC), greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, water quality and quantity, air emissions, and biodiversity.
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We propose a causal analysis framework to increase understanding of land-use change (LUC) and the reliability of LUC models. This health-sciences-inspired framework can be applied to determine probable causes of LUC in the context of bioenergy. Calculations of net greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for LUC associated with biofuel production are critical in determining whether a fuel qualifies as a biofuel or advanced biofuel category under regional (EU), national (US, UK), and state (California) regulations.
The Federal Activities Report on the Bioeconomy has been prepared to emphasize the significant potential for an even stronger U.S. bioeconomy through the production and use of biofuels, bioproducts, and biopower. Bioeconomy activities have already touched on the interests of many federal agencies and offices. This report is intended to educate the public on the wide-ranging, federally funded activities that are helping to bolster the bioeconomy.
Conventional feedstock supply systems exist and have been developed for traditional agriculture and forestry systems. These conventional feedstock supply systems can be effective in high biomass-yielding areas (such as for corn stover in Iowa and plantation-grown pine trees in the southern United States), but they have their limits, particularly with respect to addressing feedstock quality and reducing feedstock supply risk to biorefineries. They also are limited in their ability to efficiently deliver energy crops.
For analyzing sustainability of algal biofuels, we identify 16 environmental indicators that fall into six categories: soil quality, water quality and quantity, air quality, greenhouse gas emissions, biodiversity, and productivity. Indicators are selected to be practical, widely applicable, predictable in response, anticipatory of future changes, independent of scale, and responsive to management.