Designing Sustainable Options for Bioenergy Crops | AIChE

Designing Sustainable Options for Bioenergy Crops


Conference Presentation

Conference Type

AIChE Annual Meeting

Presentation Date

November 9, 2009

Skill Level




Currently, the complexity and scale dependency of land-use decisions and their impacts are not understood, defined, or described with adequate clarity to enable policy makers to develop strategies to ensure a sustainable bioenergy future with acceptable environmental and socioeconomic consequences, particularly under a changing climate regime. Sustainability for bioenergy crops includes consideration of the environment, economic conditions, and social opportunities and constraints. Implementing these conditions within any one area requires a suite of metrics that can be used as both a goal and a monitoring system to assure sustainability. Landscape attributes for the environment include water quality and quantity, biodiversity and habitat, greenhouse gas emissions and other air quality conditions, and soil conditions. These landscape attributes interact with the economic conditions of costs, prices, market conditions and trade and the social conditions of jobs, public perception, energy security, food security and lands rights to create sustainability for any one area. While several of these attributes can be projected based on watershed models using bioenergy crops grown under specific spatial designs, planning for ways in which communities may grow sustainable bioenergy crops is a larger challenge altogether. It requires a conceptual model of the ways in which farm crops interact with farm choices and constraints at a broad scale to produce the full variety of ecosystem services. We show how that the SWAT (Soil Water Assessment Tool) model can be adapted to consider sustainability implications of perennial bioenergy crops on a landscape. While optimal landscape design can be assessed within a model framework, successful sustainability implantation requires measurable metrics of sustainability that can be implemented for both small farmers and large corporations in both developing and developed nations. A set of criteria is proposed that would characterize these sustainability metrics.&'


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