Smart Bioenergy: Guiding Sustainable Bio-based Energy and Fuels Development
Expanding U.S. biofuel production will require tradeoffs between ambitious fuel production targets and other societal goals, including protection of the water we need for drinking, growing food, preserving aquatic habitats, and producing electricity.
DOWNLOAD: UCS Bioenergy Principles
Next generation biofuels made from grass, wood waste, or even garbage can reduce biofuels’ impact on water resources and reduce emissions, but only if we make smart choices (PDF).
The Billion Gallon Challenge: Advanced biofuels from diverse sources such as grasses and agricultural waste hold the promise of sustainably reducing U.S. oil dependence and global warming emissions. Unfortunately the advanced biofuels industry not been able to meet the demand as set out in the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).
The Billion Gallon Challenge is an effort to build the support and policies needed to bring the fledgling advanced biofuels industry to maturity. It also seeks to ensure that the biofuels market maximizes taxpayer investment and helps to strengthen U.S. energy and environmental security.
The Billion Gallon Challenge: A Scientists and Economists Call for Advanced Biofuels Options.
- Report: Billion Gallon Challenge Executive Summary (pdf)
- Report: Billion Gallon Challenge Full Report (pdf)
- Fact Sheet: How to Get Advanced Biofuels Off the Ground
- Fact Sheet: How to Reform Biofuels Tax Polices to Cut Pollution and Save Oil
- FAQ: Current Ethanol Tax Credits and Our Clean Fuel Future
What is Bioenergy?
Bioenergy refers to sources of energy (electricity and solid, liquid, or gaseous fuels) derived from biomass: plant- or animal-based materials such as crops, crop residues, trees, animal fats, by-products, and wastes. These materials are often obtained from agriculture and forests, but can also be derived from industrial and municipal sources.
Biofuel is bioenergy converted into a liquid fuel such as ethanol or biodiesel, but biomass can also be converted into gaseous fuels via biological or chemical processes such as digestion and gasification. Biomass solids can also be burned alone or with fossil fuels to generate direct heat, steam, and/or electrical energy.
Smart Bioenergy Overview
Recent studies have concluded that avoiding dangerous climate change will require the United States and other industrialized countries to reduce their global warming emissions approximately 80 percent below 2000 levels by mid-century.
This goal is attainable, but only if we act immediately, and on multiple fronts. One major part of the climate solutions equation is a shift to renewable energy resources such as wind, solar, and bioenergy.
Use of bioenergy—energy produced from organic matter or biomass—has the potential to increase energy security, promote economic development, and decrease global warming pollution.
But efforts to expand production and use of bioenergy could have unintended economic and environmental consequences. We must therefore strive to develop bioenergy resources in ways that help meet our present challenges without compromising future generations.
Moreover, even the smartest bioenergy policy can only be successful if pursued as part of a larger solution set, including aggressive increases in energy efficiency, demand reductions through conservation, and reforms in land use policies.
The Union of Concerned Scientists’ research and policy efforts are guided by a set of core bioenergy principles to help guide us down the path to a cleaner, more secure energy future. They include:
- Minimize global warming pollution
- Combine bioenergy with efficiency, conservation, and smart growth
- Protect public health
- Promote ecologically sound bioenergy systems
- Ensure bioenergy developments expand economic opportunity
What’s New In Smart Bioenergy?
- Science Wins Battle to Make Carbon Count in Fuels: The corn ethanol industry attempted to muscle the EPA into removing a key scientific process to accurately track global warming emissions from biofuels. UCS Director of Science & Policy Peter Frumhoff helped rally over 200 experts on the National Scientists and Economists Statement On Biofuels And Land Use (see below), and the result was a precedent-setting victory for sound science in federal rulemaking. Read more.
- National Scientists and Economists Statement On Biofuels And Land Use: Over 200 scientists and economists with expertise relevant to the scientific and economic dimensions of climate change or land use change have joined Drs. Daniel Kammen(Berkeley), Pamela Matson (Stanford), Thomas Lovejoy (Heinz Center), Stuart Pimm(Duke), William Schlesinger (Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies), and UCS Director of Science and Policy Peter Frumhoff on a statement calling for land use change to be included in any lifecycle analyses of heat-trapping emissions from biofuels.
- See the letter and full list of signatories
- Biomass Letter to the Editor: A letter from UCS’ biomass expert Ben Larson that outlines the benefits of biomass energy and its potential in a Florida town.
- A Balanced Biomass Definition: A fact sheet that details the need for a balanced biomass definition that includes sustainability standards and options for forest owners.
- Call to action on Biofuels and Land Use Change: A letter from leading U.S. scientists and economists calling on California leaders to ensure that they include indirect land use change in the lifecycle analyses of heat-trapping emissions from biofuels and other transportation fuels for the proposed California Low Carbon Fuel Standard.
- Benefits of a Low Carbon Fuel Standard: Fact sheet outlining the need for a well-designed Low Carbon Fuel Standard to reduce emissions from transportation fuel.
- Land Use, Biofuels, and Global Warming: A new look at the latest science analyzing the carbon impact of both direct and indirect land use in the production of biofuels.
- The Renewable Fuel Standard: Analysis of the potential and pitfalls of the federal Renewable Fuel Standard as passed in the 2007 Energy Bill.
- Biofuels: An Important Part of a Low-Carbon Diet: This first report in the UCS Smart Bioenergy series details the carbon landscape that faces biofuels and other alternatives to oil in the race for environmental and energy solutions; and what policy options can help create an advantage for agriculture and the environment by “counting carbs and making carbs count.”Source: www.UCSUSA.org