Community Impacts of Bioenergy

In rural areas across the country, community leaders are reconsidering traditional drivers of economic activity, in search of sustainable, diversified, and environmentally friendly options.  Bioenergy and renewable energy may be viable economic development options for communities that can grow dedicated energy crops and develop energy industries to process those crops into power or fuel.  The development of a bioenergy industry may be particularly well-suited for local economies – given adequate investors – in that  the costs of transporting bioenergy crops makes local processing necessary.  Thus, economic activity and economic benefit may stay local, although local net benefits are not always guaranteed when balanced against negative impacts to community life and well-being, such as increased truck and/or train traffic (i.e., noise, air quality, traffic safety), and odors and noise from the biomass conversion facility.  Economic benefits must also be weighed against impacts to water supply.  Each community and situation is different, and local decisions around the choice of energy crops, processing systems, and markets will define the economic benefits, while state and federal policy can provide incentives and influence outcomes (See BIOEN4 for more on community impacts of bioenergy).