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.
Adding bioenergy to the U.S. energy portfolio requires long‐term profitability for bioenergy producers and
long‐term protection of affected ecosystems. In this study, we present steps along the path toward evaluating both sides of
the sustainability equation (production and environmental) for switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) using the Soil and Water
Assessment Tool (SWAT). We modeled production of switchgrass and river flow using SWAT for current landscapes at a
regional scale. To quantify feedstock production, we compared lowland switchgrass yields simulated by SWAT with estimates
from a model based on empirical data for the eastern U.S. The two produced similar geographic patterns. Average yields
reported in field trials tended to be higher than average SWAT‐predicted yields, which may nevertheless be more
representative of production‐scale yields. As a preliminary step toward quantifying bioenergy‐related changes in water
quality, we evaluated flow predictions by the SWAT model for the Arkansas‐White‐Red river basin. We compared monthly
SWAT flow predictions to USGS measurements from 86 subbasins across the region. Although agreement was good, we
conducted an analysis of residuals (functional validation) seeking patterns to guide future model improvements. The analysis
indicated that differences between SWAT flow predictions and field data increased in downstream subbasins and in subbasins
with higher percentage of water. Together, these analyses have moved us closer to our ultimate goal of identifying areas with
high economic and environmental potential for sustainable feedstock production.
The Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007 established specific targets for the production of biofuel in the United States. Until advanced technologies become commercially viable, meeting these targets will increase demand for traditional agricultural commodities used to produce ethanol, resulting in land-use, production, and price changes throughout the farm sector. This report summarizes the estimated effects of meeting the EISA targets for 2015 on regional agricultural production and the environment. Meeting EISA targets for ethanol production is estimated to expand U.S. cropped acreage by nearly 5 million acres by 2015, an increase of 1.6 percent over what would otherwise be expected. Much of the growth comes from corn acreage, which increases by 3.5 percent over baseline projections. Water quality and soil carbon will also be affected, in some cases by greater percentages than suggested by changes in the amount of cropped land. The economic and environmental implications of displacing a portion of corn ethanol production with ethanol produced from crop residues are also estimated.
We assessed current water consumption during liquid fuel production, evaluating major steps of fuel lifecycle for five fuel pathways: bioethanol from corn, bioethanol from cellulosic feedstocks, gasoline from U.S. conventional crude obtained from onshore wells, gasoline from Saudi Arabian crude, and gasoline from Canadian oil sands.
The National Hydrography Dataset (NHD) and Watershed Boundary Dataset (WBD) are used to portray surface water on The National Map. The NHD represents the drainage network with features such as rivers, streams, canals, lakes, ponds, coastline, dams, and streamgages. The WBD represents drainage basins as enclosed areas in eight different size categories. The NHD is portrayed on the US Topo map product produced by the USGS and the NHD and WBD can be viewed on the Hydrography Viewer or the general mapping oriented The National Map Viewer.
Ethanol production using corn grain has exploded in the Upper Midwest. This new demand for corn, and the new opportunities
for value-added processing and cattle production in rural communities, has created the best economic development
opportunity in the Corn Belt states in a generation or more. Ethanol demand has increased rapidly recently because of favorable
economics of ethanol vs. gasoline, and the need for a performance enhancer to replace MTBE (methyl tertiary-butyl ether)
in gasoline. Ethanol’s growth has been so dramatic that there are now concerns about the amount of corn available to meet
various demands, including food, animal feed and export.
Overall, with increased research and investment in the industry and the potential for energy-efficient cellulosic material to
displace corn as the primary feedstock, the environmental footprint of ethanol is expected to markedly diminish.1 However, one
of the most important emerging concerns is the consumptive use of water. Consumptive use of water is broadly defined as any
use of water that reduces the supply from which it is withdrawn or diverted.
As would be expected, most ethanol plants are being sited in the Corn Belt. Many of these regions are also experiencing significant
water supply concerns, particularly in the western portion of the region. Minimal data is available on groundwater depletion, and
the scope of future water availability is not clear. It will be to the benefit of the ethanol industry, and rural development initiatives
in general, to get more clarity on the relationship between ethanol production, water consumption, and impacts on water supplies.
Otherwise, shortage of water could be the Achilles heel of corn-based and perhaps cellulose-based ethanol.
Prior studies have estimated that a liter of bioethanol requires 263−784 L of water from corn farm to fuel pump, but these estimates have failed to account for the widely varied regional irrigation practices. By using regional time-series agricultural and ethanol production data in the U.S., this paper estimates the state-level field-to-pump water requirement of bioethanol across the nation. The results indicate that bioethanol’s water requirements can range from 5 to 2138 L per liter of ethanol depending on regional irrigation practices. The results also show that as the ethanol industry expands to areas that apply more irrigated water than others, consumptive water appropriation by bioethanol in the U.S. has increased 246% from 1.9 to 6.1 trillion liters between 2005 and 2008, whereas U.S. bioethanol production has increased only 133% from 15 to 34 billion liters during the same period. The results highlight the need to take regional specifics into account when implementing biofuel mandates.
The water consumption and agrochemical use during biofuel production could adversely impact both availability and quality of a precious resource.
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.
Land-use changes are frequently indicated to be one of the main human-induced factors influencing the groundwater system. For land-use change, groundwater research has mainly focused on the change in water quality thereby neglecting changes in quantity. The objective of this paper is to assess the impact of land-use changes, from 2000 until 2020, on the hydrological balance and in particular on groundwater quantity, as results from a case study in the Kleine Nete basin, Belgium. New is that this study tests a methodology, which couples a land-use change model with a water balance and a steady-state groundwater model. Four future land-use scenarios (A1, A2, B1 and B2) based on the Special Report on Emission Scenarios (SRES) are modelled with the CLUE-S model. Water balance components, groundwater level and baseflow are simulated using the WetSpass model in conjunction with a steady-state MODFLOW groundwater flow model. Results show that the average recharge decreases with 2.9, 1.6, 1.8 and 0.8% for scenario A1, A2, B1 and B2, respectively, over the 20 covered years. The predicted reduction in recharge results in a small decrease of the average groundwater level in the basin, ranging from 2.5 cm for scenario A1 to 0.9 cm for scenario B2, and a reduction of the baseflow with maximum 2.3% and minimum 0.7% for scenario A1 and B2, respectively. Although these averages appear to indicate small changes in the groundwater system, spatial analysis shows that much larger changes are located near the major cities in the study area. Hence, spatial planning should take better account of effects of land-use change on the groundwater system and define mitigating actions for reducing the negative impacts of land-use change.