Biomass 2009: Track 1 - Sustainability
The purpose of this track was to discuss sustainability issues surrounding biofuels development as well as to present innovative methods and tools to facilitate analysis and decision making.
Each of the sessions had its own focus, allowing for concentrated discussion on the various issues that arise in developing and sustaining biofuels. Session titles were as follows:
Session I—Defining Sustainability: Science, Standards, and Scorecards
To further elaborate on / expand upon the work that various roundtables and working groups are doing in developing standards, indicators and scorecards. The end goal is to enhance the decision-making process of ensuring the sustainable production of biofuels.
Session II—Visualizing Sustainability: Developing Geospatial Technology to Address Sustainable Biofuel Production
To explain how the role of geospatial technology can be used to analyze the economic and environmental impacts of various development options for biomass feedstocks, biorefineries, and infrastructure.
Session III—Feedstock Resource Availability
To discuss what resources are available to ensure adequate feedstocks will be produced to meet increased biofuels production.
Presentation slides, if available, are provided in PDF format. Download Adobe Reader.
Track 1, Session 1
Defining Sustainability: Science, Standards, and Scorecards
- Dr. Virginia H. Dale, Corporate Fellow, Environmental Sciences Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory Presentation Slides (PDF 1.0 MB)
- Mark Jacobs, Meridian Institute Presentation Slides (PDF 80 KB)
- Jeffrey Steiner, Agricultural Research Services, USDA Presentation Slides (PDF 2.1 MB)
- Peter Halling, Novozymes, Inc. Presentation Slides (PDF 1.1 MB)
- Barbara Bramble, National Wildlife Federation Presentation Slides (PDF 478 KB)
The objective of this session was to present the work of multi-stakeholder groups developing standards, indicators, and scorecards for sustainable biofuels both internationally and domestically and to evaluate the value proposition of the implementation of these standards within industry.
The session started out with moderator, Dr. Virginia H. Dale, Corporate Fellow in the Environmental Sciences Division at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, giving an overview of the components that make up sustainability. Dr. Dale's presentation highlighted that social, economic, and environmental components must all be considered when attempting to "define" sustainability and must work together like an integrated system. A key point in her discussion was that the biofuels community needs to have conversations with different groups/audiences in order to create a cohesive dialogue.
When it comes to sustainable feedstock production, the challenge is to ask questions like how the feedstock is managed, its location, its extent (amount of land taken up by the feedstock), the condition of the land, and what environmental attributes are important to look at. The key is to get good data.
Mark Jacobs from the Meridian Institute represented the Council on Sustainable Biomass Production (CSBP). Membership in the CSBP includes a wide range of stakeholders including producers and farmers, refiners, NGOs, oil companies, biotech companies, Federal agencies, and academics, providing a wide range of invested perspectives. CSBP, as with many of the other speakers' respective organizations, is working to develop standards to address sustainability issues through principles, criteria, and indicators. CSBP's program, in particular, is a voluntary certification program with silver- and gold-level certifications.
Jeffrey Steiner of the Agricultural Research Services at USDA emphasized the importance of rural landscapes and ecosystem services and the need for each piece of the supply chain to be profitable, productive, and possess good resource stewardship. His key point was that there is no "one size fits all" when it comes to sustainability indicators; instead, a variety of issues needs to be considered, including the type of users/stakeholders, availability of data, scalability, etc.
Peter Halling from Novozymes, Inc. brought an industry perspective to the session, and an example of a company that actively pursu sustainability in its business practices. Novozymes engages in the bioethanol sustainability debate, participates in sustainable biofuels initiatives, and performs its own life-cycle analyses, looking at their enzyme products from "cradle to grave." Novozymes also promotes the idea of a comparative assessment of bioethanol and gasoline.
Barbara Bramble of the National Wildlife Federation also emphasized the importance of developing principles and criteria of sustainable biofuels production via the internationally focused Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels. The Federation's Version Zero includes minimum criteria for each principle, defining a "red line" of unacceptable/unsustainable practices.
Audience discussion brought up a few issues:
- Key challenges for sustainable cellulosic biomass production
- Farmer engagement and interest in sustainability for new industry
- Developing the value proposition for converting to sustainable biomass production
- Land conversion for biofuels (forests and grasslands)
- GHG emission measurement
- Indirect land use change impacts
- Feedstock vs. refinery sustainability
Help ensure that sustainability is part of the platform on which this industry is built
The importance of including growers in the discussions and the social and economic accessibility of certification schemes by smaller-scale producers
The need for collaboration, some of which already exists (collaboration via the Biomass Research and Development Board)
The debate is not over "Food vs. Fuel," it is competition for land for all uses (food, feed, fiber, fuel, housing, recreation, climate mitigation, etc.)
There needs to be a simple and pragmatic system that is accessible to everyone
The "math" of combining all of these existing efforts is complicated. There are different metrics... different parts of the same science
What about a NEPA review of land-conversion efforts?
Ideally, there would be one sustainability index, but there isn't a simple system that works. Internationally, especially, there needs to be an international standard and framework to make it work.
Track 1, Session II
Visualizing Sustainability: Developing Geospatial Technology to Address Sustainable Biofuel Production
- Budhendra Bhaduri, Computation Specialist, Oak Ridge National Laboratory Presentation Slides (PDF 781 KB)
- Jenny Hewson, Conservation International Presentation Slides (PDF 2.1 MB)
- M. Cristina Negri, Argonne National Laboratory Presentation Slides (PDF 1.6 MB)
- Jocelyn Tutak, Conservation Biology Institute Presentation Slides (PDF 11.7 MB)
- Leila Harfuch, Brazilian Institute for International Trade Negotiations Presentation Slides (PDF 294 KB)
The objective of this session was to explore how the role of geospatial technology can be used to analyze the economic and environmental impacts of various development options for biomass feedstocks, biorefineries, and infrastructure.
Moderator Budhendra Bhaduri, Computation Specialist with Oak Ridge National Laboratory, started the session off by providing an overview of the role of geospatial science and technology in sustainable bioenergy.
Jenny Hewson of Conservation International (CI) talked about the multi-tiered sustainable biofuels crops projects being funded by DOE and using geospatial technology to map potential biofeedstock crop cultivation zones and identify potential conflict with areas of high biodiversity or ecosystem service value. CI is developing global-scale-potential biofuel cultivation zone maps for selected biofeedstock crops, such as jatropha, eucalyptus, sugarcane, soy, switchgrass, cassava, and oil palm. Inherent to CI's work is using spatial data to understand how the potential cultivation zones they are studying intersect with areas of high biodiversity or ecosystem service value.
M. Cristina Negri of Argonne National Laboratory discussed the Laboratory's systems perspective: one sector's waste is another sector's resource. This is an approach that can be especially useful to biomass production. Its future work with GIS aims to address resolution issues, expand analyses to agricultural regions, perform life cycle analysis for selected optimized strategies, modeling at the watershed level, and performing field validation.
Jocelyn Tutak of the Conservation Biology Institute focused her discussion on her work with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in developing a method of incorporating ecological considerations into biomass projections, in particular, woody biomass. Their process is easily repeatable at many scales, in different regions, and for different combinations of values and is intended to be shared with the biomass industry.
Leila Harfuch from the Brazilian Institute for International Trade Negotiations focused her discussion on modeling land use and land use change in Brazil. Deforestation is a serious issue in Brazil, causing and affecting cattle and pasture land expansion and must be taken into consideration when modeling land use. Ms. Harfuch's organization is mapping sugarcane expansion using remote sensing models that they created to project land allocation for agricultural activities. The goal is to alleviate the competition among crops, sugarcane, and pasture area, legitimizing the need to measure direct and indirect land use change integrating economic and GIS methodology. The Brazilian and U.S. governments have partnered to improve models such as FAPRI, FASOM, and GTAP.
Audience discussion brought up a few issues:
How would private landowners participate in the economy? There are people looking at this issue (i.e., School of Environment and Forestry at Syracuse University), who are looking at landowners as "actors." So what about including this as a data point/overlay on the map? This could demonstrate what it takes to be sustainable at the broad level and including those actors. Some refer to this as "agent-based models,"... including landowners as part of the decision-making process.
There are issues with partial data (i.e., bad/incomplete/outdated data) especially at the country level.
What about the possibility of putting together a national parcels database?
There are also many factors that must be considered when using geospatial tools, such as choice of crop (which is dictated by local conditions and soil quality) and density of cattle to pasture land which could lead to degraded land/soil. One possibility is to aggregate crops/separate crops from pasture land.
Reconciling coarse data and sharing data with others in the field can help alleviate some of the data gaps/issues.
The National Land Cover Data Set uses 10-year-old data, raising the question of how to address timeliness of data. This is an issue that all the speakers and people in the field should address in their work.
One note is that there is lobbying occurring right now for GIS funding/mapping on a national level. The need must continue to be articulated to decision makers.
An analysis should be performed of potential conflict/areas of concern.
There is also the time-lapse issue. As things change, conditions change, and biofuels go on, the data may change as well. This proves the need for data to be updated annually.
The "modeling structure" (i.e., how to assemble the data) is also a major part of the issue.
Track 1, Session III
Sustainable Feedstock Resource Availability
- Laura Neal, Bioenergy Technologies Office, U.S. Department of Energy Presentation Slides (PDF 130 KB)
- Zia Haq, Bioenergy Technologies Office, U.S. Department of Energy Presentation Slides (PDF 676 KB)
- Robert Fireovid, Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture Presentation Slides (PDF 1.9 MB)
- Vance Owens, South Dakota State University Presentation Slides (PDF 3.3 MB)
This session aimed to discuss the resources available to ensure a sustainable supply of feedstocks can be produced to meet increased biofuels demand.
Laura Neal of the U.S. Department of Energy's Bioenergy Technologies Office moderated the session on Sustainable Feedstock Resource Availability. She provided a brief background presentation as an introduction to the session and then introduced each speaker.
Zia Haq of the Bioenergy Technologies Office discussed interagency efforts in the role of increasing feedstock production. The Biomass R&D Board Interagency Working Group on Feedstock Economics released a report to inform investments in research and development to expand biofuel production. Mr. Haq went over the purpose and scope of the report in addition to covering findings. Some of the findings are as follows:
Market response is linked to changes in biofuel targets (12 to 15 billion gallons) for first generation biofuels,
Producer decisions are sensitive to profitability for second generation biofuels, and
Changes in farm activities generate the largest reductions in GHG emissions differ across scenarios.
Research priorities are sustainability, modeling and data. Additionally, Haq discussed the update to the Billion-Ton Resource Assessment (published in 2005). The update will focus on near to mid-term time periods (2010 to 2030).
Robert Fireovid of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service presented on behalf of Doug Karlen of the same USDA office. Fireovid's presentation was outlined to include an explanation of the interest in crop residue, concern about crop residue, how USDA-ARS is addressing these concerns, what research has shown, and next steps. Fireovid covered some of the downsides to grain ethanol—including erosion cost and water-quality cost—and also went on to explain some alternatives, including crop residues. Mr. Fireovid went over the Renewable Energy Assessment Project (REAP) and how biomass expectations can be sustainably met. Fireovid discussed some of the biomass studies being conducted at Ames, IA. A closing message delivered in the presentation was "crop residues are not WASTES, waiting to be used productively. They are used NOW, and have been for centuries, as the PRIMARY soil amendment providing input of carbon and nutrients that are essential for sustained production of food, feed, fiber—and now FUEL."
Vance Owens of South Dakota State University was the final speaker of the session. Owens stated the overall objective of the Regional Biomass Energy Feedstock Partnership Bioenergy Crop Trials was to perform replicated field trials of diverse herbaceous biomass feedstocks at different locations for assessing potential expansion of these feedstocks as a bioenergy resource. He went over the experimental design and results of various feedstock tested in the trials. Owens also discussed the Conservation Reserve Program and plans for 2009.