Increased bioenergy production can diversify energy portfolios, introduce renewable energy options, and help reduce the carbon footprint of the energy industry. Large-scale bioenergy implementation also has the potential to have negative environmental consequences as well. It is critically important to understand and minimize the potential unintended consequences of a transition to bioenergy. Biofuel development is complex and involves a variety of stakeholders with differing objectives. This makes reaching a consensus difficult. Biofuels are an emerging industry with some uncertainty as to how they will ultimately develop. The environmental profile of bioenergy development is unclear, with significant tradeoffs and conflicting evidence regarding the purported environmental benefits of bioenergy. Increased bioenergy production also has the potential to impact nitrogen, phosphorus, and water cycles. Carbon emissions also need further investigation, especially with respect to changing land use. This chapter will discuss the inherent tradeoffs between carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, and land use that exist with bioenergy, and discuss preferable bioenergy development scenarios.
CSS Publication Number:
Perspectives on Biofuels: Potential Benefits and Possible Pitfalls
December 18, 2012
Miller, Shelie A. (2012) “Avoiding the unintended consequences of bioenergy.” Chapter 5 in Perspectives on Biofuels: Potential Benefits and Possible Pitfalls. C. Taylor, R. Lomneth & F. Wood-Black, Eds. ACS Books. 87-100.