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Land-use change (LUC) estimated by economic models has sparked intense international debate. Models estimate how much LUC might be induced under prescribed scenarios and rely on assumptions to generate LUC values. It is critical to test and validate underlying
assumptions with empirical evidence. Furthermore, this modeling approach cannot answer if any specific indirect effects are actually caused by biofuel policy. The best way to resolve questions of causation is via scientific methods. Kim and Dale attempt to address the question of if, rather than how much, market-induced land-use change is currently detectable based on the analysis of historic evidence, and in doing so, explore some modeling assumptions behind the drivers of change. Given that there is no accepted approach to estimate the global effects of biofuel policy on land-use change, it is critical to assess the actual effects of policies through careful analysis and interpretation of empirical
data. Decision makers need a valid scientific basis for policy decisions on energy choices.

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Publication Year
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dalevh@ornl.gov
Contact Person
Virginia Dale
Contact Organization
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Bioenergy Category
Funded from the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Bioenergy Technologies Office.

ABSTRACT: A growing number of countries are implementing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions trading schemes. As these schemes impose a cost for GHG emissions they should increase the competitiveness of low carbon fuels. Bioenergy from biomass is regarded as carbon neutral in most of the schemes, therefore incurring no emission costs. Emissions trading schemes may therefore encourage increased use of biomass for energy, and under certain conditions may also incentivize the construction of new bioenergy plants. This paper first identifies design elements in emissions trading schemes that influence the use of biomass. It then discusses the experiences with the EU-ETS so far and compares the design elements of the EU-ETS with different existing and emerging trading schemes in the US, Australia and New Zealand, with focus on factors that may influence the use of biomass. Furthermore, the paper analyses how incentives for bioenergy change as the price of carbon changes and which trade offs may have to be considered, if emissions trading schemes are linked.

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Bioenergy Category

Algae feedstocks for alternative fuels production are not economically competitive with fossil fuels at the present time. Furthermore, it has not yet been demonstrated that algae production systems offer improved sustainability characteristics.
Algae does have potential as a feedstock for biofuels. Depending on their composition, different algae species may be suitable for a range of biofuels. Additionally, algal biomass productivity per hectare could eventually be higher than for terrestrial energy crops. Last but not least, algae can be cultivated at sea or on non-arable land, so there is no competition with current food production.
These reasons justify attention to algal biofuels from researchers, industries and (governmental) policy makers. The research that forms the basis of this report leads to the conclusion that the following issues are important to consider in policymaking on algal biofuels:

Algal biofuels are in an early stage of development. Current expectations for the future are based on estimates and extrapolation of small-scale production and results of laboratory work. Progress needs to be demonstrated that higher productivity, commercial scale systems, exhibiting improved economics and sustainability attributes are achievable.

It is too early to select preferred algal fuel pathways and technologies. In practice there will not be one preferred production method for all situations. Different local circumstances, such as climatic conditions, the availability of fresh or salt water, and the proximity of suitable CO2 resources will likely have different optimum solutions.

Algae production will not be possible in quite a few regions of the world. High productivity rates will require good solar irradiance, a narrow and suitable temperature range, good water supply, adequate CO2 resources, and sufficient flat land. The locations where all of the appropriate resources are available need to be identified.

Sustainability criteria must be developed for algal biofuels. Besides the energy, environmental, and ecological issues that are addressed in this report, criteria should be defined on issues not addressed in this report such as economic prosperity and social well-being.

It has been shown that under specific conditions, the algal biofuel production and distribution chain may have a net energy output, but further energy analysis of many different algae fuel chains is needed.

Algal biofuel policies and projects should aim to reduce fossil energy consumption and the environmental burden compared to conventional fuels. In parallel, these efforts should result in acceptable impacts on ecosystems. Therefore, many government agencies that fund pilot projects are requiring a complete sustainability analysis prior to construction and operations. During the execution of the project, energy consumption and emissions should be measured to ensure that actual measurements are consistent with those in the sustainability analysis and to collect inputs for later LCA analyses.

Based on the high level of innovation demonstrated within the algal biofuels industry in just the past decade, it is likely that new, refined, or even breakthrough technologies will continue to be introduced in the future. In fact, the introduction of these innovations will be critical if the sector is ultimately going to achieve commercial success. It is important that industry stakeholders and policymakers remain open to new algal species, processes, and fuels besides the ones that are being considered today.

Bioenergy Category

This publication provides the summary and conclusions from the workshop ‘Developing Sustainable Trade in Bioenergy’ held in conjunction with the meeting of the Executive Committee of IEA Bioenergy in Nara City, Japan on 12 May 2010.

The purpose of the workshop was to provide perspectives on bioenergy trade in a world where there are progressively more quantitative targets for bioenergy deployment, including incentives for production of biofuels on a sustainable basis. The aim was to stimulate discussion between the Executive Committee and invited experts and thereby enhance the policy-oriented work within IEA Bioenergy.

Bioenergy Category

This review on research on life cycle carbon accounting examines the complexities in accounting for carbon emissions given the many different ways that wood is used. Recent objectives to increase the use of renewable fuels have raised policy questions, with respect to the sustainability of managing our forests as well as the impacts of how best to use wood from our forests. There has been general support for the benefits of sustainably managing forests for carbon mitigation as expressed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2007. However, there are many integrated carbon pools involved, which have led to conflicting implications for best practices and policy. In particular, sustainable management of forests for products produces substantially different impacts than a focus on a single stand or on specific carbon pools with each contributing to different policy implications. In this article, we review many recent research findings on carbon impacts across all stages of processing from cradle-to-grave, based on life cycle accounting, which is necessary to understand the carbon interactions across many different carbon pools. The focus is on where findings are robust and where uncertainties may be large enough to question key assumptions that impact carbon in the forest and its many uses. Many opportunities for reducing carbon emissions are identified along with unintended consequences of proposed policies.
http://www.corrim.org/pubs/articles/2011/FSG_Review_Carbon_Synthesis.pdf
 

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blippke@u.washington.edu
Data Source
http://www.corrim.org/pubs/articles/2011/FSG_Review_Carbon_Synthesis.pdf
Contact Person
Bruce Lippke
Contact Organization
College of Environment, University of Washington
Bioenergy Category
Author(s)
Lippke, Bruce

A primary objective of current U.S. biofuel law – the “Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007” (EISA) – is to reduce dependence on imported oil, but the law also requires biofuels to meet carbon emission reduction thresholds relative to petroleum fuels. EISA created a renewable fuel standard with annual targets for U.S. biofuel use that climb gradually from 9 billion gallons per year in 2008 to 36 billion gallons (or about 136 billion liters) of biofuels per year by 2022. The most controversial aspects of U.S. biofuel policy have centered on the global social and environmental implications of land use. In particular, there is an ongoing debate about whether “indirect land use change” (ILUC) would cause biofuels to become a net source, rather than sink, of carbon emissions. Estimates of ILUC induced by biofuel production can only be inferred through modeling. This paper evaluates how model structure, underlying assumptions, and the representation of policy instruments influence the results of U.S. biofuel policy simulations. The analysis shows that differences in these factors can lead to divergent model estimates of land use and economic effects. Model estimates of the net conversion of forests and grasslands induced by U.S. biofuel policy range from 0.09 ha/1000 gallons described in this paper to 0.73 ha/1000 gallons from early studies in the ILUC change debate. We note that several important factors governing LUC change remain to be examined. Challenges that must be addressed to improve global land use change modeling are highlighted.

Publication Year
Contact Email
dalevh@ornl.gov
Bioenergy Category
Author(s)
Keith L. Kline , Gbadebo Oladosu
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