Bioenergy has the potential to diversify the global energy portfolio, provide a viable renewable alternative that can be implemented at a large scale, and reduce carbon emissions in the energy sector. There are also potential drawbacks to bioenergy development, such as disruptions to the nitrogen and phosphorus cycles, changes in water quality, and the potential consequences of land use change. Switchgrass has been proposed as one of the major next-generation biofuels feedstocks; however, its environmental impact depends largely on prior land use. When switchgrass is grown on lands that were intensively cultivated, such as corn or cotton, improvements are observed in carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus cycles. Conversely, switchgrass grown on fallow lands tend to have negative impacts. Therefore, the large-scale ramifications of major land use conversions to switchgrass must be identified prior to implementation to better understand and mitigate potential unintended consequences. This research will discuss efforts to predict potential land use conversions, the impacts of switchgrass production given prior land use occupation, and the overall environmental impact of this second-generation biofuel.
CSS Publication Number:
Shelie Miller, Jim Chamberlain, Jose Alfaro and Ben Sharp. “Assessing The Non-Carbon Impacts Of An Emerging Bioenergy Industry.” 6th International Conference of the International Society for Industrial Ecology (ISIE) Proceedings. Berkeley, CA, June 7-10 2011, Abstract #822.