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Synthesis manuscript for an Ecology & Society Special Feature on Telecoupling: A New Frontier for Global Sustainability

Esther Parish, Environmental Sciences Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory , Anna Herzeberger, Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability, Michigan State University , Colin Phifer, School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science, Michigan Technological University , Virginia Dale, Environmental Sciences Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Funded from the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Bioenergy Technologies Office.

Several EU countries import wood pellets from the south-eastern United States. The imported wood pellets are (co-)fired in power plants with the aim of reducing overall greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from electricity and meeting EU renewable energy targets. To assess whether GHG emissions are reduced and on what timescale, we construct the GHG balance of wood-pellet electricity. This GHG balance consists of supply chain and combustion GHG emissions, carbon sequestration during biomass growth and avoided GHG emissions through replacing fossil electricity.

Hanssen SV , Duden AS , Junginger HM , Dale VH , van der Hilst F

The harvest of corn stover or herbaceous crops as feedstocks for bioenergy purposes has been shown to have significant benefits from energy and climate change perspectives. There is a potential, however, to adversely impact water and soil quality, especially in Midwestern states where the biomass feedstock production would predominantly occur.

Nelson, Richard

National interests in greater energy independence, concurrent with favorable market forces, have driven increased production of corn-based ethanol in the United States and research into the next generation of biofuels. The trend is changing the national agricultural landscape and has raised concerns about potential impacts on the nation?s water resources. This report examines some of the key issues and identifies opportunities for shaping policies that help to protect water resources.

Schnoor, Jerald

Power generation emits significant amounts of greenhouse gases (GHGs), mainly carbon dioxide (CO2). Sequestering CO2 from the power plant flue gas can significantly reduce the GHGs from the power plant itself, but this is not the total picture. CO2 capture and sequestration consumes additional energy, thus lowering the plant's fuel-to-electricity efficiency. To compensate for this, more fossil fuel must be procured and consumed to make up for lost capacity.

Spath, Pam

Biomass is a significant contributor to the US economy--agriculture, forest and paper products, food and related products account for 5% of our GDP. While the forest products industry self generates some of their energy, other sectors are importers. Bioenergy can contribute to economic development and to the environment. Examples of bioenergy routes suggest that atmospheric carbon can be cycled through biofuels in carefully designed systems for sustainability. Significant potential exists for these options.

Costello, Raymond

The estimation of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from a change in land-use and management resulting from growing biofuel feedstocks has undergone extensive – and often contentious – scientific and policy debate. Emergent renewable fuel policies require life cycle GHG emission accounting that includes biofuel-induced global land-use change (LUC) GHG emissions. However, the science of LUC generally, and biofuels-induced LUC specifically, is nascent and underpinned with great uncertainty.

The U.S. biomass resource can be used several ways that provide domestic, renewable energy to users. Understanding the capacity of the biomass resource, its potential in energy markets, and the most economic utilization of biomass is important in policy development and project selection. This study analyzed the potential for biomass within markets and the competition between them.


The petroleum-based transportation fuel system is complex and highly developed, in contrast to the nascent low-petroleum, low-carbon alternative fuel system. This report examines how expansion of the low-carbon transportation fuel infrastructure could contribute to deep reductions in petroleum use and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions across the U.S. transportation sector.

Land-use change (LUC) is a contentious policy issue because of its uncertain, yet potentially substantial, impact on bioenergy climate change benefits. Currently, the share of global GHG emissions from biofuels-induced LUC is small compared to that from LUC associated with food and feed production and other human-induced causes. However, increasing demand for biofuels derived from feedstocks grown on agricultural land could increase this contribution. No consensus has emerged on how to appropriately isolate and quantify LUC impacts of bioenergy from those of other LUC drivers.