environmental, and a social dimension (Hammond, 2000; IISD, 2011; United Nations, 2011). A recent NRC report identified four key societal sustainability goals for agriculture. Those goals are:
• “Satisfy human food, feed, and fiber needs, and contribute to biofuel needs.
• Enhance environmental quality and resource base.
• Sustain the economic viability of agriculture.
• Enhance the quality of life for farmers, farm workers, and society as a whole.” (NRC, 2010b; p.23)
In the context of algal biofuels, the goals of sustainable development can be framed as follows:
• Contribute to energy security, particularly the domestic supply of transportation fuel.
• Maintain and enhance the natural resource base and environmental quality.
• Produce fuel that is economically viable.
• Enhance the quality of life for society as a whole.
The four aspects of sustainability are interconnected in many ways, some of which are synergistic or mutually reinforcing, others of which might involve tradeoffs among goals. An example of synergy could be technological improvements in algae and cyanobacteria production and in processing the biomass to fuels. Those improvements would enhance fuel yield, contribute to energy security, increase resource use efficiency, and reduce cost of production, and therefore contribute to transportation fuel needs and improve environmental, economic, and social sustainability. An example of a tradeoff could be pollutant management, which would contribute to maintaining environmental quality and minimizing human-health impacts but could add to the cost of production.
1.2.2 Components of Sustainable Biofuel Development
As in the case of plant-based biofuels (NRC, 2011b), algal biofuels could provide opportunities to improve energy security, reduce GHG emissions, and maintain and enhance the resource base and environmental quality, but their production also could raise sustainability concerns. Whether those opportunities will be realized depends on how the industry develops. It is prudent to consider potential sustainability concerns that might arise and to avoid or mitigate them as the industry develops. Sustainability of plant-based biofuels has been discussed, and criteria for assessments have been developed by various entities over the past decade (ESA, 2008; Markevicius et al., 2010; NRC, 2010a,c). Examples of sustainability criteria are shown in Table 1-1. Many of the sustainability criteria apply to algal biofuels.
22.214.171.124 Energy Security
Whether and how much algal biofuels would contribute to energy security depends in part on the resources (for example, land and water) available for algal biofuel production, the productivity of algae cultivation, the yield of the processing of algae to fuel, and the ability to integrate the various components of algal biofuel production into one functional system and to scale it up. Resource limitations bound how much algal biofuel could be