will be making the decisions to invest in biomass systems—from shifting land use, to building capital-intensive biorefineries, to establishing the infrastructure and public vehicle fleet for ethanol distribution and end use—in the context of economic viability (including as it relates to environmental sustainability) and the needs of the marketplace.

The core R&D of OBP is organized around the integrated biorefinery concept. The biorefinery helps deliver sustainable and environmentally sound contributions to power, fuels, and products demand while supporting rural economies. Key barriers relevant to this area include ensuring resource sustainability at levels large enough to support large-scale production facilities and maximizing the efficiency of conversion facilities to minimize costs. Energy production from biomass on a large scale will require careful evaluation of U.S. agricultural resources and logistics, as these will likely require a change in paradigm that will take time to implement. Current harvesting, storage and transportation systems are currently inadequate for processing and distribution of biomass on the scale needed to support dramatically larger volumes of biofuels production. Evaluating the current feedstock resource on a national level as well as the potential for future feedstock production in light of environmental constraints is part of OBP’s focus.

Overall, the program emphasizes sustainable development of the biofuels industry, including economic, environmental, and societal impacts over entire life cycle of biofuels—from the farm to end use in vehicles. The program promotes biofuels that do not compete with food crops, and our analytic models are continuously enhanced to improve our ability to anticipate, understand, and avoid potential adverse impacts on the environment, whether they are direct or indirect.


OBP has been working with Oak Ridge, Argonne, and Idaho National Laboratories in conjunction with university partners to develop a national, GIS-based framework to analyze the economic and environmental impacts of various development options for biomass feedstocks, biorefineries, and infrastructure. The framework is aimed at supporting assessment of relevant resources and infrastructure at local, regional, and national scales; determining the best locations for new feedstock production and processing facilities; evaluating the potential contribution of biofuels to meet legislated renewable fuel production targets; and protecting air quality, water, land, and other resources.

In addition, the program’s current sustainability activities include: performing comparative life-cycle assessment (LCA) of water requirements for the production of advanced biofuels, corn ethanol, sugar cane ethanol, and competing petroleum fuels. The four main areas addressed in the LCA are: land use and soil sustainability, water use impacts, air quality impacts, and greenhouse gas (GHG)

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