Better Bioenergy: Rather Than Picking Bioenergy "Winners," Effective Policy Should Let a Lifecycle Analysis Decide

By Purdon, Mark; Bailey-Stamler, Stephanie et al. | Alternatives Journal, March-April 2009 | Go to article overview

Better Bioenergy: Rather Than Picking Bioenergy "Winners," Effective Policy Should Let a Lifecycle Analysis Decide


Purdon, Mark, Bailey-Stamler, Stephanie, Samson, Roger, Alternatives Journal


Resource Efficient Agricultural Production Canada (REAP-Canada), a non-profit organization dedicated to an ecological approach to the production of food, fibre and fuel from farms, suggests how the application of full lifecycle performance criteria can make bioenergy competitive with petroleum-based fuels.

BIOENERGY POLICY is often limited to a discussion of liquid biofuels such as corn ethanol and, more recently, second-generation "cellulosic" ethanol. It's time to begin thinking more holistically about developing technologies that capture solar energy efficiently and turn it into useable forms of bioenergy.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Of the $4.3-billion of federal funding for renewable energy available through the Canadian government's ecoACTION program over the next nine years, over 50 per cent is allocated to liquid biofuels such as corn ethanol. But renewable energy can also be produced as green power and solid biofuels. A better plan would reward renewable energies based on their environmental and economic performance. This would allow governments to get out of the business of picking "winners" and allow the best bioenergy options to emerge.

In the absence of an economy-wide policy such as a carbon tax, two incentive strategies could bring down the cost of bioenergy, making it competitive with fossil fuels. The first would see government agree to pay a set price for emission reductions, effectively putting a "bounty" on carbon. A second approach would allocate incentives on a dollar-per-unit-energy basis, varying the level of this incentive based on the relative energy quality of each form of biofuel produced.

But the devil is in the details. Which is the "best" bioenergy option? How much of an incentive for bioenergy do we need? What is the right price for a carbon bounty? Getting objective answers to these questions involves applying four full lifecycle performance criteria, which should be at the core of bioenergy policy in Canada. They include energy return on investment (EROI), greenhouse gas mitigation efficiency, energy cost effectiveness and carbon cost effectiveness.

Resource Efficient Agricultural Production Canada (REAP-Canada)'s research on solid biofuels demonstrates how these four criteria could shape bioenergy policy.

EROI and Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Efficiency

The debate on bioenergy is often discussed in terms of the EROI: the ratio of the amount of energy produced through the bioenergy process in relation to the energy used to make it. Care should be taken to ensure that EROI reflects the full lifecycle of the bioenergy crop, including fertilizing, harvesting and transportation. Corn ethanol has an EROI of about 1.3:1, which means that for every unit of energy put in to making corn ethanol, 1.3 units of bioenergy are produced--a 30-per-cent "return on your investment" in financial terms.

It is possible, however, to produce liquid biofuels from more productive crops such as switchgrass, a perennial species native to Canada's prairies. With the technologies currently proposed for commercial scale-up, switchgrass could be used to produce ethanol with a projected EROI of 4.4 to 6.1:1.

Alternatively, if switchgrass is pressed into pellets or briquettes instead of being used as a feedstock for a liquid biofuel, it can be burned directly for heat energy or in combined heat-and-power systems. This solid biofuel has an EROI of 12.8:1. Using this system, the net energy gain (or renewable energy profit) from a hectare of farmland is nine times higher than a hectare of land used to produce corn ethanol, making this fuel source an option worth considering for creating bioheat in Canada, though its combustion requires appliances that remove particulate emissions.

Though EROI is critical, it's not the only criteria for determining the best bioenergy option. The greenhouse gas mitigation efficiency of different bioenergy options is also important. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Better Bioenergy: Rather Than Picking Bioenergy "Winners," Effective Policy Should Let a Lifecycle Analysis Decide
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.