Chapter

Engineering and Science of Biomass Feedstock Production and Provision

pp 233-259

Date:

Sustainability Issues in Biomass Feedstock Production: A Policy Perspective

  • Jody EndresAffiliated withDepartment of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, The University of Illinois Email author 

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Abstract

Demand for energy biomass has led nongovernmental organizations, industries with interests contrary to biofuels, and even governments to question whether bioenergy policies truly result in environmental and societal improvements befitting of their “bio,” “renewable,” and “green” labels. Environmental concerns range from potential emissions of greenhouse gas emissions from indirect land-use change, in some cases making the footprint of biofuels worse than petroleum. Environmental groups also fear that forests’ fragile ecosystems could be threatened by overharvesting that leads to water pollution and loss of biodiversity and soil productivity. In addition to environmental harms, social advocates predict that biomass production in developing countries could lead to loss of land tenure/rights, and labor and employment abuses. Laws and private standards have evolved in response to these concerns. Challenges remain, however, in implementing biofuels’ sustainability standards, such as enabling farmers to practically and economically use practice and measurement tools, reconciling divergent standards among countries, and solving the seemingly intractable “food versus fuel” dilemma. This chapter examines sustainability requirements for biomass-to-bioenergy that have arisen through the convergence of energy, environmental, agricultural, and forestry policies; examines core “sustainability” definitions in United States, European Union, Brazil, and private policies; and asks how international policy can reconcile meanings of sustainability to foster the nascent bioenergy sector.