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Counting the cost of carbon in bioenergy systems: sources of variation and hidden pitfalls when comparing life cycle assessments

Counting the cost of carbon in bioenergy systems: sources of variation and hidden pitfalls when comparing life cycle assessments
Counting the cost of carbon in bioenergy systems: sources of variation and hidden pitfalls when comparing life cycle assessments
Energy from biomass is renewable and capable of providing heat, power or liquid fuels. Life cycle assessments of these renewable fuels have often shown positive energy balances and GHG savings, relative to fossil fuels. There are, however, large variations between studies and not all are positive, leading to recent reports questioning the long-term sustainability of bioenergy. Using a systematic review of life cycle assessments relevant to feedstocks grown in a temperate climate (three for heat and power and eight for liquid biofuels) we have defined these sources of variation, highlighting areas of uncertainty and priorities for future research. In addition, we have explored the challenges in comparing bioenergy and biofuels production chains and their fossil fuel equivalents and demonstrated how this can be done in a fair and consistent manner.
1759-7269
693-707
Rowe, Rebecca L.
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Whitaker, Jeanette
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Freer-Smith, Peter H.
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Chapman, Jennifer
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Ryder, Stephen
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Ludley, Kate E.
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Howard, David C.
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Taylor, Gail
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Rowe, Rebecca L.
3c46478a-e003-4245-b519-674d0bae543a
Whitaker, Jeanette
b231477c-5c80-4d8e-b721-1d2a33d96300
Freer-Smith, Peter H.
c4299981-dbfe-46b3-b8fe-c4b9d8803393
Chapman, Jennifer
4f73b8b5-34e0-4f99-bed5-fc935af66fa4
Ryder, Stephen
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Ludley, Kate E.
e769e23a-dd4c-4e41-b316-e41455786655
Howard, David C.
61cb083c-6965-4eb9-b530-6c18b475ed87
Taylor, Gail
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Rowe, Rebecca L., Whitaker, Jeanette, Freer-Smith, Peter H., Chapman, Jennifer, Ryder, Stephen, Ludley, Kate E., Howard, David C. and Taylor, Gail (2011) Counting the cost of carbon in bioenergy systems: sources of variation and hidden pitfalls when comparing life cycle assessments. Biofuels, 2 (6), 693-707. (doi:10.4155/bfs.11.131).

Record type: Article

Abstract

Energy from biomass is renewable and capable of providing heat, power or liquid fuels. Life cycle assessments of these renewable fuels have often shown positive energy balances and GHG savings, relative to fossil fuels. There are, however, large variations between studies and not all are positive, leading to recent reports questioning the long-term sustainability of bioenergy. Using a systematic review of life cycle assessments relevant to feedstocks grown in a temperate climate (three for heat and power and eight for liquid biofuels) we have defined these sources of variation, highlighting areas of uncertainty and priorities for future research. In addition, we have explored the challenges in comparing bioenergy and biofuels production chains and their fossil fuel equivalents and demonstrated how this can be done in a fair and consistent manner.

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Published date: November 2011
Organisations: Centre for Biological Sciences

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Local EPrints ID: 206263
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/206263
ISSN: 1759-7269
PURE UUID: 9e451742-c4d4-49f9-9c1b-e0473478d289
ORCID for Gail Taylor: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0001-8470-6390

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Date deposited: 19 Dec 2011 11:59
Last modified: 18 Feb 2021 16:52

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Contributors

Author: Rebecca L. Rowe
Author: Jeanette Whitaker
Author: Peter H. Freer-Smith
Author: Jennifer Chapman
Author: Stephen Ryder
Author: Kate E. Ludley
Author: David C. Howard
Author: Gail Taylor ORCID iD

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