Environmental Management

, Volume 51, Issue 2, pp 291–306

Environmental Indicators of Biofuel Sustainability: What About Context?

  • Rebecca A. Efroymson
  • Virginia H. Dale
  • Keith L. Kline
  • Allen C. McBride
  • Jeffrey M. Bielicki
  • Raymond L. Smith
  • Esther S. Parish
  • Peter E. Schweizer
  • Denice M. Shaw
Article

DOI: 10.1007/s00267-012-9907-5

Cite this article as:
Efroymson, R.A., Dale, V.H., Kline, K.L. et al. Environmental Management (2013) 51: 291. doi:10.1007/s00267-012-9907-5

Abstract

Indicators of the environmental sustainability of biofuel production, distribution, and use should be selected, measured, and interpreted with respect to the context in which they are used. The context of a sustainability assessment includes the purpose, the particular biofuel production and distribution system, policy conditions, stakeholder values, location, temporal influences, spatial scale, baselines, and reference scenarios. We recommend that biofuel sustainability questions be formulated with respect to the context, that appropriate indicators of environmental sustainability be developed or selected from more generic suites, and that decision makers consider context in ascribing meaning to indicators. In addition, considerations such as technical objectives, varying values and perspectives of stakeholder groups, indicator cost, and availability and reliability of data need to be understood and considered. Sustainability indicators for biofuels are most useful if adequate historical data are available, information can be collected at appropriate spatial and temporal scales, organizations are committed to use indicator information in the decision-making process, and indicators can effectively guide behavior toward more sustainable practices.

Keywords

Baseline conditions Bioenergy Natural variability Spatial and temporal scales Supply chain Systems 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC (outside the USA) 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rebecca A. Efroymson
    • 1
  • Virginia H. Dale
    • 1
  • Keith L. Kline
    • 1
  • Allen C. McBride
    • 1
  • Jeffrey M. Bielicki
    • 2
  • Raymond L. Smith
    • 3
  • Esther S. Parish
    • 1
  • Peter E. Schweizer
    • 1
  • Denice M. Shaw
    • 4
  1. 1.Center for BioEnergy Sustainability, Environmental Sciences DivisionOak Ridge National LaboratoryOak RidgeUSA
  2. 2.Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public AffairsUniversity of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA
  3. 3.National Risk Management Research Laboratory, Office of Research and DevelopmentU.S. Environmental Protection AgencyCincinnatiUSA
  4. 4.National Center for Environmental Assessment, Office of Research and DevelopmentU.S. Environmental Protection AgencyWashingtonUSA

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