Advanced biomass feedstocks tend to provide more non-fuel ecosystem goods and services (ES) than 1st-generation alternatives. We explore the idea that payment for non-fuel ES could facilitate market penetration of advanced biofuels by closing the profitability gap. As a specific example, we discuss the Mississippi-Atchafalaya River Basin (MARB), where 1st-generation bioenergy feedstocks (e.g., corn-grain) have been integrated into the agricultural landscape. Downstream, the MARB drains to the Gulf of Mexico, where the most-valuable fishery in the US is impacted by annual formation of a large hypoxic “Dead zone.” We suggest that advanced biomass production systems in the MARB can increase and stabilize the provision of ES derived from the coastal and marine ecosystems of the Gulf-of-Mexico. Upstream, we suggest that choosing feedstocks based on their resistance or resilience to disturbance (e.g., perennials, diverse feedstocks) can increase reliability in ES provision over time. Direct feedbacks to incentivize producers of advanced feedstocks are currently lacking. Perhaps a shift from first-generation biofuels to perennial-based fuels and other advanced bioenergy systems (e.g., algal diesel, biogas from animal wastes) can be encouraged by bringing downstream environmental externalities into the market for upstream producers. In future, we can create such feedbacks through payments for ES, but significant research is needed to pave the way.
Henriette I. Jager
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
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Funded from the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Bioenergy Technologies Office.