You are here:
Assessing Environmental Impacts of Biofuels using Life-Cycle-Based Approaches
CURRAN, M. A. Assessing Environmental Impacts of Biofuels using Life-Cycle-Based Approaches. Management of Environmental Quality: An International Journal. Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley , Uk, 24(1):34-52, (2013).
To inform the public.
There is no simple answer to the question “are materials and products that are made from biofeedstocks environmentally sustainable?” However, thinking holistically allows decision-makers to view the potential ‘cradle-to-grave’ environmental impacts of the engineered systems that produce bio-based products, such as biofuels, and, thereby, choose the most favorable options to keep us on the path toward sustainability. As the application of the life cycle concept has grown in popularity, tools and approaches that are espoused as life cycle assessments have proliferated. In application, these tools often use a limited number of pre-selected criteria by which to measure the sustainability of biofuels. Global climate change is a focus of interest and has manifested in carbon footprinting tools. Other tools have been developed to address energy efficiency, water use, and land use issues, to name a few. This paper provides a review of ten categories of tools that are useful in assessing the environmental impacts of biofuels: Carbon Management, Ecological Footprint, Exergy Analysis, Fuel Cycle Analysis, Greenhouse Gas Life Cycle Analysis, Life Cycle Assessment, Life Cycle Risk Assessment, Material Flow Analysis, Net Energy Balance, and Sustainability Indicators. The tools that measure greenhouse gas (GhG) releases and impacts show biofuels in a favorable light compared to conventional gasoline (petrol) while ecological footprint techniques and life cycle assessments (LCAs) recognize the potential environmental harm that can result from growing and harvesting biofeedstocks. No single tool covers all the relevant metrics for sustainability, but used together, they can to present a fuller picture of the environmental issues related to biofuels.
Record Details:Record Type: DOCUMENT (JOURNAL/PEER REVIEWED JOURNAL)
Organization:U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
OFFICE OF RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT
NATIONAL RISK MANAGEMENT RESEARCH LABORATORY
SUSTAINABLE TECHNOLOGY DIVISION
MULTIMEDIA TECHNOLOGY BRANCH