Landscape implications of bioenergy feedstock choices are significant and depend on land-use practices and their environmental impacts. Although land-use changes and carbon emissions associated with bioenergy feedstock production are dynamic and complicated, lignocellulosic feedstocks may offer opportunities that enhance sustainability when compared to other transportation fuel alternatives. For bioenergy sustainability, major drivers and concerns revolve around energy security, food production, land productivity, soil carbon and erosion, greenhouse gas emissions, biodiversity, air quality, and water quantity and quality. The many implications of bioenergy feedstock choices require several indicators at multiple scales to provide a more complete accounting of effects. Ultimately, the long-term sustainability of bioenergy feedstock resources (as well as food supplies) throughout the world depends on land-use practices and landscape dynamics. Land-management decisions often invoke trade-offs among potential environmental effects and social and economic factors as well as future opportunities for resource use. The hypothesis being addressed in this paper is that sustainability of bioenergy feedstock production can be achieved via appropriately designed crop residue and perennial lignocellulosic systems. We find that decision makers need scientific advancements and adequate data that both provide quantitative and qualitative measures of the effects of bioenergy feedstock choices at different spatial and temporal scales and allow fair comparisons among available options for renewable liquid fuels.
Center for BioEnergy Sustainability, Oak Ridge National Laboratory