Pathways to Sustainable Bioenergy From Perennial Grasses

EPA Grant Number: FP917476
Title: Pathways to Sustainable Bioenergy From Perennial Grasses
Investigators: Krohn, Brian J
Institution: University of Minnesota
EPA Project Officer: Lee, Sonja
Project Period: September 1, 2012 through August 31, 2015
Project Amount: $126,000
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2012) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships , Fellowship - Environmental Science


The perennial grass industry is in its very early stages of development but likely will grow to have a sizable impact on the environment, primarily through changes in land use. This research will model potential development scenarios and analyze the subsequent environmental impacts. The overarching goal of this research is to present researchers, policy makers and industry leaders with a suite of development pathways to help them to maximize the industry’s economic and environmental benefits.


To meet the research objectives, this study will develop a suite of potential land-use change scenarios to represent possible pathways for the development of perennial grass biomass for biofuels across the United States. Then a life-cycle assessment will be conducted of bioenergy from perennial grasses to accrue key agronomic and production data that will be necessary for the parameterization of the environmental impact models. Finally, with the scenario and life cycle data, each scenario will be analyzed across a number of environmental impact categories.

Expected Results:

Developing a perennial grass bioenergy industry likely will have both positive and negative impacts on the environment. Furthermore, the way in which the industry develops (e.g., where and how the crops are grown) will change the scale and sign of the impacts. The results of this research will articulate the possible pathways to meet U.S. biofuel objectives while simultaneously highlighting the environmental tradeoffs that will occur in achieving the objectives.

Potential to Further Environmental/Human Health Protection

Perennial grass-based energy systems have the potential to greatly improve the environment and human health by providing green energy, reducing air and water emissions and improving biodiversity. This research provides large-scale analysis to ensure that policy makers and industry leaders have the tools to maximize the potential positive impacts and minimize the negative impacts of this developing bioenergy industry.

Supplemental Keywords:

biofuel, life-cycle assessment, land change

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2013
  • 2014
  • Final