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The development of modern high efficiency bioenergy technologies has the
potential to improve energy security and access while reducing environmental impacts
and stimulating low-carbon development. While modern bioenergy production is
increasing in the world, it still makes a small contribution to our energy matrix.
At present, approximately 87% of energy demand is satisfied by energy produced
through consumption of fossil fuels. Although the International Energy Agency (IEA)
predicts that this share will fall to 75%, the total consumption of fossil fuels will continue
to rise, adding another 6 Gt of carbon to the atmosphere by 2035. The consequences
of this increase are worrisome.
Our oceans are being critically affected. Oceans are an important CO2 sink and absorb
26% of the CO2 emissions but due to accelerated acidification and rising sea surface
temperatures, this capacity may be reduced. Never in the last 300 million years has
the rate of ocean acidification been so high. In the last 150 years, acidity in oceans
increased by 30%. The main cause are the emissions from fossil fuel burning, especially
the release of CO2.
Deforestation and land degradation also contribute to increased greenhouse gas
emissions. The world’s total forest area in 2010 was just over 4 billion hectares,
which corresponds to an average of 0.6 ha per capita. Each year, between 2000 and
2010, around 13 million hectares of forestland were converted to other uses or lost
through natural causes. The production of timber for housing or the need to make land
available for urbanization, large-scale cash crops such as soy and oil palm, subsistence
agriculture and cattle ranching induce deforestation. Forests are also degraded or
damaged due to the soaring demand for fuelwood and charcoal for cooking and heating
in developing countries that suffer from low levels of access to modern energy services.
Most of the world’s bioenergy is presently derived from wood burning for cooking and
heating in developing countries. Such traditional uses of biomass are low in cost to the
users, but their technical inefficiency results in considerable health and environmental
costs while providing only low quality energy services. Many countries demonstrate
that a much higher efficiency can be obtained in traditional uses commercially with
sustainably managed feedstock supplies. Since bioenergy systems often operate
at the interface between agriculture and forestry, they are also closely connected to
the planning and governance of these sectors and of policy to conserve and manage
forests. Consequently, interdisciplinary and cross-level or horizontal studies are needed
in order to define the best routes through which achieve a sustainable energy matrix.
Can modern bioenergy make a significant contribution to our energy matrix with
positive contributions to the environment? What are the social, environmental and
economic implications of the expansion of bioenergy in the world? How does expansion
of bioenergy perform in the context of the food, energy, climate, development and
environment nexus? Which are the most significant potential benefits of bioenergy
production and use and how can we design implementation platforms and policy
frameworks to ensure that such benefits are realized and widely replicated? What are
the scientific research needs and technological development requirements needed to
fill in the gaps?
To answer some of these questions, FAPESP BIOEN, Climate Change and BIOTA
Research Programs led, in December 2013, a group of 50 experts from 13 countries
convened at UNESCO in Paris, France, for a rapid assessment process on “Bioenergy
and Sustainability” under the aegis of SCOPE. Background chapters commissioned
before the workshop provided the basis for this international consultation during which
crosscutting discussions focused on four themes: Energy Security, Food Security,
Environmental and Climate Security, Sustainable Development and Innovation.
The resulting synthesis volume has the contribution of 137 researchers from 82
institutions in 24 countries.

Contact Phone
Publication Year
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Dalevh@ornl.gov
Contact Person
Virginia H. Dale
Contact Organization
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Bioenergy Category
Author(s)
Joly, CA , Huntley, BJ , Verdade, LM , Dale, VH , Mace, G , Muok, B , Ravindranath, NH

Relationships between people and their environment are largely defined by land use. Space and soil are needed for native plants and wildlife, as well as for crops used for food, feed, fiber, wood products and biofuel (liquid fuel derived from plant material). People also use land for homes, schools, jobs, transportation, mining and recreation. Social and economic forces influence the allocation of land to various uses. The
recent increase in biofuel production offers the opportunity to design ways to select locations and management plans that are best suited to meet human needs while also protecting natural biodiversity (the variation of life within an ecosystem, biome or the entire Earth).

Contact Phone
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Contact Email
dalevh@ornl.gov
Contact Person
Virginia Dale
Contact Organization
Center for BioEnergy Sustainability, Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Bioenergy Category
Author(s)
Virginia H. Dale

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. Major differences between algae and terrestrial plant feedstocks, as well as their supply chains for biofuel, are highlighted, for they influence the choice of appropriate sustainability indicators. Algae strain selection characteristics do not generally affect which indicators are selected. The use of water instead of soil as the growth medium for algae determines the higher priority of water- over soil-related indicators. The proposed set of environmental indicators provides an initial checklist for measures of algal biofuel sustainability but may need to be modified for particular contexts depending on data availability, goals of stakeholders, and financial constraints. Use of these indicators entails defining sustainability goals and targets in relation to stakeholder values in a particular context and can lead to improved management practices.

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efroymsonra@ornl.gov
Contact Person
R. A. Efroymson
Contact Organization
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Bioenergy Category
Author(s)
R. A. Efroymson
Funded from the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Bioenergy Technologies Office.

As with all land transformation activities, effects on biodiversity and ecosystem services of producing feedstocks for biofuels are highly variable and context specific.  Advances toward more sustainable biofuel production benefit from a system's perspective, recognizing spatial heterogeneity and scale, landscape-design principles, and addressing the influences of context such as the particular products and their distribution, policy background, stakeholder values, location, temporal influences, and baseline conditions.  Deploying biofuels in a manner to reduce effects on biodiversity and associated ecosystem services can only be done with planning, monitoring, and appropriate goverance.   The effects of biofuels can be avoided or reduced by conservation of priority biodiversity areas, recognizing the context specific effects of biofuels, and adopting location-specific management of production systems.  Developing those management strategies takes time and effort.

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Publication Year
Contact Email
dalevh@ornl.gov
Contact Person
Virginia Dale
Contact Organization
Center for Bioenergy Sustainability, Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Bioenergy Category
Author(s)
C.A. Joly
Funded from the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Bioenergy Technologies Office.

Potential global biodiversity impacts from near-term gasoline production are compared to biofuel, a renewable liquid transportation fuel expected to substitute for gasoline in the near term (i.e., from now until c. 2030).  Petroleum exploration activities are projected to extend across more than 5.8 billion ha of land and ocean worldwide (of which 3.1 bllion is on land), much of which is in remote, fragile terrestrial ecosystems or off-shore oil fields that would remain relatively undisturbed if not for interest in fossil fuel production.  Future biomass production for biofuels is projected to fall within 2.0 billion ha of land, most of which is located in areas already impacted by human activities.  A comparison of likely fuel-source areas to the geospatial distribution of species reveals that both energy sources overlap with areas with high species richness and large numbers of threatened species.  At the global scale, future petroleum production areas intersect more than double the area and a higher total number of threatened species than future biofuel production.  Energy options should be developed to optimize provisioning of ecosystems services while minimizing negative effects, which requires information about potential impacts on critical resources.  Energy conservation and identifying and effectively protecting habitats with high-concervation value are critical first steps toward protecting biodiversity under any fuel production scenario.

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This manuscript has been authored by UT-Battelle, LLC under Contract No. DE-AC05-00OR22725 with the US Department of Energy.  The United States Government retains and the publisher, by accepting the article for publication, acknowledges that the United St
Publication Year
Contact Email
dalevh@ornl.gov
DOI
10.1002/bbb.1528
Contact Person
Virginia Dale
Contact Organization
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Bioenergy Category
Author(s)
Virginia H. Dale , Esther S. Parish , Keith L. Kline
Funded from the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Bioenergy Technologies Office.

Relationships between people and their environment are largely defined by land use. Space and soil are needed for native plants and wildlife, as well as for crops used for food, feed, fiber, wood products and biofuel (liquid fuel derived from plant material). People also use land for homes, schools, jobs, transportation, mining and recreation. Social and economic forces influence the allocation of land to various uses. The recent increase in biofuel production offers the opportunity to design ways to select locations and management plans that are best suited to meet human needs while also protecting natural biodiversity (the variation of life within an ecosystem, biome or the entire Earth). Forethought and careful planning can help society balance these diverse demands for land. At the same time, current energy infrastructure must become less reliant on the earth’s finite supply of fossil fuels because they contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, cause environmental pollution, and jeopardize energy security. The sustainable development of renewable fuel alternatives can offer many benefits but will demand a comprehensive understanding of how our land-use choices affect the ecological systems around us. By incorporating both socioeconomic and ecological principles into policies, decisions made regarding biofuel production can be based on a more sustainable balance of social, economic, and ecological costs and benefits. Researchers are actively studying the potential impacts of biofuels production on land use and biodiversity, and there is not yet a firm consensus on the extent of these effects or how to measure them. In this report, we summarize the range of conclusions to date by exploring the features and benefits of a landscape approach to analyzing potential land-use changes associated with biofuel production using different feedstocks. We look at how economics and farm policies may influence the location and amount of acreage that will ultimately be put into biofuel production and how those land-use changes might affect biodiversity. We also discuss the complexities of land-use assessments, estimates of carbon emissions, and the interactions of biofuel production and the US Department of Agriculture Conservation Reserve Program. We examine the links between water and biofuel crops and how biofuel expansion might avoid “food versus fuel” conflicts. Finally, we outline ways to design bioenergy systems in order to optimize their social, economic and ecological benefits.

Publication Year
Contact Email
dalevh@ornl.gov
Bioenergy Category
Author(s)
Virginia Dale
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