- Rapid Assessment
Funding & Partnerships
Funding was also provided by Cornell University's Biogeochemistry and Biocomplexity Initiative and an endowment given to Cornell University by David R. Atkinson.
The worldwide use of liquid biofuels has accelerated remarkably just since 2005. Production is expected to double by 2015. While most production today occurs in Brazil and the US, increased production is expected not only in these countries but throughout Europe, southeast Asia, and Africa.
Liquid biofuels have been heavily criticized for both as a fuel source and as a "greener" fuel alternative. Much of the criticism has focused on first-generation ethanol (i.e ethanol produced from corn) and many articles in both the scientific literature and the popular press have reported on a host of environmental problems associated with this technology. Potential issues with ethanol produced from sugarcane, biodiesel produced from oil palms, soya bean, and other crops, and with “second-generation“ ethanol produced from cellulose, have received far less scrutiny and discussion so far. There are nonetheless potentially severe consequences on the environment from these technologies as well.
The charge of the International SCOPE Biofuels Project is to perform an objective, science-based assessment in order to provide a comprehensive, systematic, and comparative analysis of the environmental benefits and costs of biofuel technologies. The project is being conducted both at the global and sub-global levels, so as to take into account specific physical and societal dimensions in the main regions of the world. The project is evaluating both first and second-generation liquid fuels, including both ethanol and biodiesel. The project is also evaluating gaseous biofuels (methane) and the use of solid biomass for energy (for example through pyrolysis and direct combustion)
There are many other organizations involved in evaluating biofuels. What can the SCOPE effort do that is not already being done by others? The SCOPE Biofuels Project not only can bring significant added value to the topic of how biofuels affect global change and environmental quality, but can also play a unique role. Other ongoing efforts are governmentally based or built on industrial consortiums or on industrial/NGO coalitions. While these involve scientists, none are primarily science-based. The SCOPE project has established an international and interdisciplinary advisory group of distinguished scientists and engineers. A subset of this group serves as an executive committee for the Project. We have established a fundamental goal: to use the best available science-based objective information to address the question "what are the characteristics of an environmentally desirable and sustainable biofuel?"
Robert W. Howarth
Chair, SCOPE International Biofuels Project
Purchase a hardcopy here
December 2009, BioScience Viewpoint, T. Simpson
LOICZ INPRINT article: SCOPE Biofuels Project: Update on the Rapid Assessment on Biofuels and EnvironmentIGBP 2008 Conference, Public Poster Session
SCOPE/UNESCO Policy Brief (Forthcoming)
M. Otto (UNEP)
Bio-energy: risks and opportunities
22 Sept 2008.
J. McNeely (IUCN)
Biofuels, biodiversity, and energy security: what are the environmental impacts?
23 Sept. 2008
Implications of biofuels for nutrient cycling in agriculture
23 Sept. 2008
L.A. Martinelli, R. Victoria (CENA)
Expansion of sugarcane in Brazil: environmental and social implications
24 Sept. 2008
C. Field (Carnegie Inst.)
Biomass energy: the climate protective domain
24 Sept. 2008
Phase I: Rapid Assessment Process (RAP) on Biofuels and the Environment.
Workshop held 22-25 September 2008
Grand City Hotel, Gummersbach, Germany
Robert W. Howarth, Cornell University
Stefan Bringezu, Wuppertal Institute
Phase 1 consisted of a SCOPE Rapid Assessment Process (RAP) workshop which helped to lay the road map for the larger, more sustained effort that is required given the complexity of the science involved. The workshop brought together a group of nearly 40 high calibre, international experts to deliberate on the key environmental impacts of biofuels production and expansion and future perspectives of more sustainable biofuel systems. Cross-cutting economic and social aspects were discussed as well. The results from the deliberations provided policy relevant information to support decision making by industry, national governments, international institutions and NGOs and was published in a SCOPE Policy Brief.
Prior to the workshop, expert authors were invited to provide papers (1 per author) on key issues as input to the meeting. Workshop participants discussed the various concerns from different perspectives, while focusing on three to four cross-cutting questions. The workshop was scheduled such that 2 working groups met at any given time, allowing participants to take part in at least 2 groups - a scheme similar to the proven Dahlem conferences. Session chairs and rapporteurs ensured a productive outcome, kept track of the record, and synthesised results in a well-balanced and thorough manner. At the end of the workshop the key content of the proceedings was drafted along with the SCOPE-UNESCO Policy Brief. The entire volume underwent subsequent review, refinement, and editing prior to publication of the final volume in April of 2009.
|Robert W. Howarth
Dept. of Soil Science
Makerere Univ. UGA
Potsdam Institute for Climate
Impact Research DEU
Osvaldo E. Sala
Dept. of Ecology & Evol. Biology
Brown University USA
Applied Economics & Management
Cornell Univ. USA
International Fertilizer Industry
Norwegian Univ. of Sci. & Tech./
SINTEF Materials and Tech. NOR
Institute for Chem Technology
Flensburg Univ. of Applied Sci. DEU
Centro de Energia Nuclear na Agricultura (CENA)
Univ. of Sao Paulo BRA
Timothy D. Searchinger
Woodrow Wilson School
Princeton Univ. USA
Department of Biology
Univ. of Brazil BRA
World Conservation Union
Tom W. Simpson
Water Stewardship Inc./
University of Maryland USA
David J. Connor
School of Land & Environ. Mngmt.
Univ. of Melbourne AUS
The Ecosystems Center
Marine Biological Lab, Woods Hole (USA)
Shell Renewables/ Shell Hydrogen
Royal Dutch Shell GBR
Charlotte de Fraiture
International Water Management Institute LKA
Shell International Petroleum GBR
Environ. Assessment & Mngmt.
Food & Agriclture Organization of the U.N. (FAO) ITA
Dept. of Global Ecology
Carnegie Institute, Stanford Univ. USA
The H. John Heinz II Center for
Science, Economics, and the Environment USA
Dept of Sociology & Environmental Change Initiative
Brown Univ. USA
Center for Intl Climate & Environ. Research-OSLO (CICERO)
Univ. of Oslo SWE
Energy & Transport Policy Unit
Centro de Energia Nuclear na Agricultura (CENA)
Univ. of Sao Paulo BRA
UNEP Intl Panel on Sustainable
Mngmt. of. Natural Res. CAN
Cheryl A. Palm
Columbia Univ. USA
School of Environmental Science
Univ. of KwaZulu-Natal ZAF
Dept. of Geography
Univ. of Louvain BEL
Agriculture & Environment
European Environmental Agency DNK
Imperial College GBR
Ecology of Populations & Community
Univ. of Paris South FRA
Dept. of Ecology & Evol. Biology
Brown Univ. USA
Mark Mba Wright
Center for Sustainable Environ. Technologies
Iowa State Univ. USA
Climate Change Unit
EC Joint Research Center ITA
Centre for Sustainable Technologies/
Indian Institute of Science IND
Reference LiteratureThe following is a partial listing of references cited in the background papers and work group deliberations compiled in the RAP proceedings volume from Phase 1 of the International Biofuels Project. The RAP proceedings volume, in total, cites well over 400 reports, journal articles, conference presentations, and research volumes. Please see the individual chapters for a complete listing of references.
Energy Information Administration. 2008. International Energy Outlook. DOE/EIA-0484 U.S. Department of Energy/ EIA, Washington. D.C. link
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 2008. The State of Food and Agriculture. Biofuels: Prospects, risks and opportunities. Rome. link
Gallagher, E. 2008. The Gallagher Review of the Indirect Effects of Biofuels Production. Renewable Fuels Agency, London, United Kingdom. link
Gerbens-Leenes, P.W., A. Hoekstra, Th. Van der Meer. 2008. Water footprint of bio-energy and other primary energy carriers. Value of Water Research Report Series No. 29. UNESCO-IHE, Delft, the Netherlands. link
GISP. 2008. Biofuel crops and the use of non-native species: mitigating the risks of invasion. link
Hazell, P. and R. K. Pachauri (eds.) 2006. Bioenergy and agriculture: promises and challenges. 2020 Focus Report 14, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) Washington D.C. USA. link
International Energy Agency. 2007. World Energy Outlook 2008. OECD/IEA, Paris. link
International Water Management Institute. 2007. Water for food, water for life: A comprehensive assessment of water management in agriculture. Earthscan, London; IWMI, Colombo, Sri Lanka. link
Jongschaap, R.E.E., W.J. Corré, P.S. Bindraban, W.A. Brandenburg. 2007. Claims and facts on Jatropha curcas L.: Global Jatropha curcas evaluation. Plant Research International Report 158. Wageningen University Research (WUR), the Netherlands link
Jungbluth, N., S. Bussere, R. Frischknecht, M. Tuchschmid. 2008. Life Cycle Assessment of Biomass-to-Liquid Fuels [German]. Federal Office of Energy, Federal Office for the Environment, and Federal Office for Agriculture, Switzerland. download
OECD/FAO. 2008. Agricultural Outlook 2008-2017. OECD Publishing, Paris. link
REN21. 2008. Renewables 2007 - Global Status Report. REN21 Secretariat, Paris/Worldwatch Institute, Washington, DC link
Rosegrant, M., S. Cline, W. Li, T. Sulser and R. Valmonte-Santos, R. 2005. Looking ahead: Long-term prospects for Africa’s agricultural development and food security. 2020 Discussion paper. International Food Policy Research Institute, Washington DC. link
Rountable for Sustainable Biofuels. 2008. Draft principles and criteria for sustainable biofuels, version “Minus 10” for discussion in Steering Board and IMP WG. Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL), Lausanne, France. link
The Royal Society. 2008. Sustainable biofuels: prospects and challenges. Policy document 01/08. Royal Society, London. link
Von Lampe, M. 2006. Agricultural Market Impacts of Future Growth in the Production of Biofuels, Working Party on Agricultural Policies and Markets, OECD Papers 6(1). OECD/FAO Committee for Agriculture, Working Party on Agricultural Polices and Markets, Paris France. link
Wetland International. 2007. Biofuels in Africa. Wetland International. link
World Bank. 2008. World Development Report 2008: Agriculture for Development. The World Bank: Washington DC. link
World Watch Institute. 2006. Biofuels for transportation: global potential and implications for sustainable agriculture and energy in the 21st Century. World Watch Institute, Washington, DC. link
Zah, R., H. Boni, M. Gauch, R. Hischier, M. Lehmann, and Wager. 2007. Life cycle assessment of energy products: environmental impact assessment of biofuels [German]. Empa. link
Barney, J. N. and J. M. DiTomaso. 2008. Nonnative species and bioenergy: Are we cultivating the next invader? BioScience 58:64-70. link
Bringezu S., H. Schütz, K. Arnold, F. Merten, S. Kabasci, P. Borelbach, C. Michels, G.A. Reinhardt, N. Rettenmaier. 2009. Global implication of biomass and biofuel use in Germany - recent trends and future scenarios for domestic and foreign agricultural land use and resulting GHG emissions. J Cleaner Prod. [forthcoming]
Campbell, J. E., D. B. Lobell, R. C. Genova, and C. B. Field. 2008. The global potential of bioenergy on abandoned agricultural lands. Environ Sci Technol 42:5791-5794. link
Cançado, J.E., P.H.N. Saldiva, L.A.A. Pereira, L.B.L.S. Lara, P. Artaxo, L.A. Martinelli, M.A. Arbex, A. Zanobetti and A.L.F. Braga. 2006. The impact of sugar cane-burning emissions on the respiratory system of children and the elderly. Environ Health Perspec 114: 725-729. link
Crutzen, R. J., A. R. Mosier, K. A. Smith, and W. Winiwarter. 2007. N2O release from agro-biofuel production negates global warming reduction by replacing fossil fuels. Atmos Chem Phys Discuss 7: 11191-11205.
de Fraiture, C., M. Giordano and Y. Liao. 2008. Biofules and implications for agricultural water uses: blue impacts of green energy. Water Policy 10: 67-81
de Vries, B., D. van Vuuren, and M. Hoogwijk. 2007. Renewable energy sources: Their global potential for the first half of the 21st century at a global level: an Integrated approach. Energy Policy 35:2590-2610.
de Wit M, J. Stankiewicz. 2006. Changes in surface water supply across Africa with predicted climate change. Science 311: 1917-1920.
Donner, S. D. and C. J. Kucharik. 2008. Corn-based ethanol production compromises goal of reducing nitrogen export by the Mississippi River. PNAS 105(11): 4513-4518.
Donner, S.D. and D. Scavia. 2007. How climate controls the flux of nitrogen by the Mississippi River and the development of hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico. Limnol Oceanogr 52(2):856-861.
Fargione, J., J. Hill, D. Tilman, S. Polasky, P. Hawthorne. 2008. Land Clearing and the Biofuel Carbon Debt. Science 319:1235-1238.
Field, C., J. E. Campbell, D.B. Lobell. 2008. Biomass energy: the scale of the potential resources. Trends in Ecol & Evol 23: 65-72.
Hazell, P. and S. Wood, 2008. Drivers of changes in global agriculture. Phil Trans R Soc B 363: 495-515.
Heusemann, M. H. 2008. Ocean fertilization and other climate change mitigation strategies: An overview. MEPS 364: 243-250.
Hill, J., E. Nelson, D. Tilman, S. Polasky, and D. Tiffany. 2006. Environmental, economic, and energetic costs and benefits of biodiesel and ethanol biofuels. PNAS 103: 11206-11210.
Lara, L. L., P. Artaxo, L. A. Martinelli, P. B. Camargo, R. L. Victoria, and E. S. B. Ferraz. 2005. Properties of aerosols from sugar-cane burning emissions in Southeastern Brazil. Atmos Environ 39:4627–4637.
Leip, A., G. Marchi, R. Koeble, M. Kempen, W. Britz, and C. Li. 2008. Linking an economic model for European agriculture with a mechanistic model to estimate nitrogen and carbon losses from arable soils in Europe. Biogeosciences 5:73-94.
Liska, A.J. and K.G. Cassman. 2008. Towards standardization of life-cycle metrics for biofuels: greenhouse gas emissions mitigation and net energy yield. J Biobased Materials 2: 187-203.
Martinelli, L.A. and S. Filoso. 2008. Expansion of sugarcane ethanol production in Brazil: environmental and social challenges. Ecological Applications 18(4): 885-898.
Pang, X., Y. Mu, J. Yuan, H. He. 2008. Carbonyls emission from ethanol-blended gasoline and biodiesel-ethanol-diesel used in engines. Atmos Environ 42: 1349-1358.
Peterson, J. 2008. Energy production with agricultural biomass: environmental implications and analytical challenges. European Rev Agric Econ 35(3): 385-408.
Raghu S, Anderson RC, Daehler CC, Davis AS,Wiedenmann RN, Simberloff D and Mack RN. 2006. Adding biofuels to the invasive species fire? Science 313: 1742.
Rajagopal, D. 2008. Implications of India’s biofuel policies for food, water and the poor. Water Policy 10(S1): 95–106.
Robertson G.P., V.H. Dale, O.C. Doering, S.P. Hamburg, J.M. Melillo, M.M. Wander, W.J. Parton, P.R. Adler, J.N. Barney, R.M. Cruse, C.S. Duke, P.M. Fearnside, R.F. Follett, H.K. Gibbs, J. Goldemberg, D.J. Mladenoff, D. Ojima, M.W. Palmer, A. Sharpley, L. Wallace, K.C. Weathers, J.A. Wiens, W.W. Wilhelm. 2008. Sustainable Biofuels Redux. Science 322:
Searchinger, T., R. Heimlich, R.A. Houghton, F. Dong, A. Elobeid, J. Fabiosa, S. Tokgoz, D. Hayes, T. Yu. 2008. Use of U.S. croplands for biofuels increases greenhouse gases through emissions from land use change. Science 319: 1238 - 1240
Simpson, T. W., A Sharpley, R. W. Howarth, H. W. Paerl, and K Mankin. 2008. The New Gold Rush: Fueling Ethanol Production While Protecting Water Quality. J Environ Qual 37(2): 318-324.
Smeets, E. M. W., L. F. Bouwman, E. Stehfest, D. P. van Vuuren, and A. Posthuma. 2009. Contribution of N2O to the greenhouse gas balance of first-generation biofuels. Global Change Biology 15:1-23.
Thompson, P. B. 2008. The agricultural ethics of biofuels: a first look. J Agric Environ Ethics 21: 183–198.
Tyner, W. and Taheripour. 2008. Biofuels, policy options, and their implications: analyses using partial and general equilibrium approaches. J Agric Food Ind Org 6(9)
conference proceedings and presentations
GBEP 2nd Task Force on GHG Methodologies - Washington DC, 6-7 March 2008.presentations
Mid-Atlantic Regional Water Program. Biofuels and Water Quality Conference, 4-5 April 2007, Beltsville MD USA. presentations
Birur D., T.W. Hertel, W.E. Tyner. 2007. The biofuels boom. paper presented at Food Economy Conference of the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, The Hague, October 18-19, 2007.
Holmgren, J., Nair, P., Elliot, D., Bain, R., R. Marinangeli. 2008. Converting Pyrolysis Oils to Renewable Transport Fuels: Processing Challenges & Opportunities. National Petrochemical & Refiners Association Annual Meeting, San Diego, CA: March 11, 2008
Moraes, M. A. F. D., M. G. de Figueiredo, and L. P. Rodrigues. Recent Strategies of the Soya Agro Industry and its impacts in the market structure. Paper presented at V International Pensa Conference, 2005, Ribeirão Preto. Agri Food Chain/ Networks Economics and Management. Ribeirão Preto : FEARP/USP, PENSA/USP, FUNDACE.
Prueksakorn, K., and S. H. Gheewala. 2006. Energy and greenhouse gas implications of biodiesel production from Jatropha curcas L. The 2nd Joint International Conference on "Sustainable Energy and Environment", Bangkok, Thailand.
Reinach, F. 2008. “Status and prospects of ethanol production in Brazil”, WIREC 2008 Conference, Washington 3-6 March, 2008
Stowers, M. 2007. Cellulosic Ethanol. Project LIBERTY Feedstock Development. GreenPower Nexgen Conference, Amsterdam, 4th and 5th October 2007.
Trydeman Knudsen, M. and Halberg, N. (2007) How to include on-farm biodiversity in LCA on food? Poster presentation, LCA Food Conference, 25-26 April 2007, Gothenburg.
Tyner, W.E., and F. Taheripour. 2007. Biofuels, energy security, and global warming policy interactions. Paper presented at the National Agricultural Biotechnology Council Conference, 22–24 May 2007, South Dakota State University, Brookings, SD, USA.
Liu,D. 2008. The development of biofuels in China. 8th May 2008. Tsinghua University. Beijing, China.
Long, S. 2007. Achieving environmentally and economically viable biofuel feedstock crops. Why improvement of photosynthetic efficiency is critical and attainable. Presentation to the Porter Alliance, 17th October 2007. Imperial College London, UK.
Macedo, I. 2008. Mitigation of GHG emissions using sugarcane bio-ethanol. Paper presented to Chatham House meeting ‘Biofuels - the Brazilian experience’, 8th October 2008, London, UK.
Wisner, R. 2007. Iowa Farm Outlook. Presentation at Tel Aviv University May 15, 2007. link
Ometto, A.R. et al. (2004). Emergy life cycle assessment of fuel ethanol in Brazil. Pages 389 - 399 in Ortega, E. And Ulgiati, S. (editors): Proceedings of IV Biennial International Workshop “Advances in Energy Studies”, Unicamp, Campinas, SP. Brazil. June 16-19, 2004. link
Proceedings of COMPETE Workshop: Bioenergy and Land Use, 22 June 2007, Le Reduit, Mauritius. link
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