The University of Southampton
University of Southampton Institutional Repository

Sources of variability in greenhouse gas and energy balances for biofuel production: a systematic review

Whitaker, Jeanette, Ludley, Katherine E., Rowe, Rebecca, Taylor, Gail and Howard, David C. (2010) Sources of variability in greenhouse gas and energy balances for biofuel production: a systematic review Global Change Biology Bioenergy, pp. 99-112. (doi:10.1111/j.1757-1707.2010.01047.x).

Record type: Article

Abstract

Across the energy sector, alternatives to fossil fuels are being developed, in response to the dual drivers of climate change and energy security. For transport, biofuels have the greatest potential to replace fossil fuels in the short-to medium term. However, the ecological benefits of biofuels and the role that their deployment can play in mitigating climate change are being called into question. Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a widely used approach that enables the energy and greenhouse gas (GHG) balance of biofuel production to be calculated. Concerns have nevertheless been raised that published data show widely varying and sometimes contradictory results. This review describes a systematic review of GHG emissions and energy balance data from 44 LCA studies of first- and second-generation biofuels. The information collated was used to identify the dominant sources of GHG emissions and energy requirements in biofuel production and the key sources of variability in published LCA data. Our analysis revealed three distinct sources of variation: (1) 'real' variability in parameters e.g. cultivation; (2) 'methodological' variability due to the implementation of the LCA method; and (3) 'uncertainty' due to parameters rarely included and poorly quantified. There is global interest in developing a sustainability assessment protocol for biofuels. Confidence in the results of such an assessment can only be assured if these areas of uncertainty and variability are addressed. A more defined methodology is necessary in order to allow effective and accurate comparison of results. It is also essential that areas of uncertainty such as impacts on soil carbon stocks and fluxes are included in LCA assessments, and that further research is conducted to enable a robust calculation of impacts under different land-use change scenarios. Without the inclusion of these parameters, we cannot be certain that biofuels are really delivering GHG savings compared with fossil fuels

PDF Sources_of_variability_in_greenhouse_gas_and_energy.pdf - Version of Record
Restricted to Repository staff only
Download (264kB)

More information

Published date: June 2010
Keywords: biofuel, carbon, energy, greenhouse gas, life cycle, assessment, sustainable

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 160033
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/160033
ISSN: 1757-1693
PURE UUID: 1e10cd6c-62bf-4f84-8e22-3fa8203adb1c

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 12 Jul 2010 10:09
Last modified: 18 Jul 2017 12:35

Export record

Altmetrics

Contributors

Author: Jeanette Whitaker
Author: Katherine E. Ludley
Author: Rebecca Rowe
Author: Gail Taylor
Author: David C. Howard

University divisions

Download statistics

Downloads from ePrints over the past year. Other digital versions may also be available to download e.g. from the publisher's website.

View more statistics

Atom RSS 1.0 RSS 2.0

Contact ePrints Soton: eprints@soton.ac.uk

ePrints Soton supports OAI 2.0 with a base URL of http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/cgi/oai2

This repository has been built using EPrints software, developed at the University of Southampton, but available to everyone to use.

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue without changing your settings, we will assume that you are happy to receive cookies on the University of Southampton website.

×