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News: May, 2012- Making good decisions on biofuel by taking the devil out of the details

By EcoPress Staff

Biofuel, or fuel created from living materials, is a potential source of energy that can replace fossil fuel.  Biofuel might allow U.S. to depend less on foreign oil and decrease the amount of CO2 released from burning fossil fuel.  But, like anything else, the devil is in the details; we don’t know enough about biofuel to make good decisions.  NREL graduate students Nell Campbell and John Field, along with Soil and Crop Science graduate student Greta Lohman, dig into the unknowns of biofuel production, transport, and markets to answer the question: “Will biofuels work?”  Field writes:

Promoting sustainability in biofuel and bioenergy production is a complex problem, and requires a good understanding of both the environmental issues associated with agriculture for biomass feedstock production as well as the engineering issues associated with the efficient conversion of those feedstocks into final energy products such as ethanol or electricity.   While well-designed biofuel production chains can potentially displace fossil fuel use and promote soil carbon increases, poorly-designed systems ha

ve the potential to release more greenhouse gases (GHGs) than they displace, compete with food production, or have other indirect consequences.  Lifecycle assessment (LCA) is the process by which such production chains are modeled, flows of raw materials, wastes, and pollutants are catalogued, and impacts such as net GHG emissions, increases in local acidification or eutrophication, or human health effects are evaluated.

Campbell, Field, and Lohman are presenting their study on biofuels as part of the National Science Foundation’s Integrated Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) program on Multidisciplinary Approaches to Sustainable Bioenergy (MASB) here at CSU.  Field writes:

A group from the CSU MASB program recently entered a video and poster on the subject of bioenergy LCA in the national IGERT program poster competition, which can be viewed at  I encourage you to take a look at this as well as the other entries, and cast a vote for your favorite through this Friday at noon EDT.  There are a variety of fascinating posters on ecology topics and across the wider spectrum of the natural and social sciences, and the quality of many of the videos are truly impressive!

Check them out and cast a vote!  Althoughthe competition ends this Friday, the videos and posters can be viewed after Friday.