Pressure is increasing on renewable energy sources to meet energy demands, particularly those that also reduce overall greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions while providing economic development and other socio-economic benefits.  Whether and to what degree bioenergy projects deliver on the simultaneous demands for energy and sustainability depends assessment of all potential effects of bioenergy from “cradle to grave.”  While use of arable farmland (as opposed to marginal lands only) for production of biofuels presents some risk of impact to food supply on the global scale, conversion of steep or wet land currently in food crop production (i.e., row crop) to less intensive bioenergy crops such perennial grass mixes has the potential to generate economic, environmental and ecological benefits.  Greenhouse gas emissions, habitat and biodiversity change, and impacts to soil and water quantity and quality are concerns regarding bioenergy and its sustainability.  Ecosystem services and management of trade-offs are key conceptual issues in the sustainability of bioenergy.  It will likely be necessary, for example, for stakeholders to assess the potential benefits and costs associated with the various components of bioenergy systems including biomass production, conversion technologies, distribution and use; but moreover, stakeholders will need to make decisions regarding what costs are associated with each benefit and which costs comprise tolerable trade-offs.

Next Unit: 1.4