Environmental Supply Curves Highlight Relationship between Environmental Indicators, Cost, and Biomass for Energy in National-Scale Assessment
Bioenergy Sustainability Conference
Bioenergy has the potential to be profitable while at the same time providing sustainability benefits. We present relationships between potential agricultural and forest biomass supply and environmental effects from a national-scale study of potential biomass for energy and bioproducts. We also develop new methods to visualize environmental effects, as well as tradeoffs or synergies between price and environmental effects, as biomass supply increases across the US. The visualizations are termed environmental supply curves. We conduct a county-level analysis of biomass scenarios and environmental effects of the potential biomass at the farmgate or roadside following harvest and prior to transport. Supply that could potentially be available annually in the US by 2040 at $66 per dry Mg is considered. Environmental supply curves for modeled indicators of water quality and quantity, GHG emissions, air quality, and biodiversity are presented. We visualize the environmental effects of a 2040 US biomass production scenario by environmental indicator, feedstock, region, and price. Biomass that meets or exceeds specified environmental or cost thresholds across the US can be quantified. For some indicators, the highest-cost biomass has rather benign environmental effects, whereas for other indicators, the highest-cost biomass has the most-adverse effects. The simulations of environmental effects of biomass highlight the importance of the specific context of the simulation, i.e., the particular indicator, feedstock, yield, region and supply chain step.